Sega Saturn more powerful than the psx?

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Wrath Of Khan

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http://www.gamepilgrimage.com/SATPScompare.htm  Here is an old article on it.

I'm currently reading the 'history of Sega' book.
Apparently the Saturn uses parallel processing and the best results are gained by coding in assembler.
And apparently the Ps1/Psx is easier to get up and running but quickly maxes out in terms of potential. Also C++ is used for coding on the psx.

Apparently experienced assembly coders loved the Saturn and the c++ guys were termed 'Crap coders by comparison.

Well it's an urban myth I guess that the Psx was the more powerful machine. I sure did enjoy my psx back in the day though.
 

Red Ring Rico

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Both the Saturn and PlayStation had C++ compilers (though there is a note in SEGA's Saturn SDK to not use C++ for performance reasons).  The main problem was synchronising the SH-2s in the Saturn and if you didn't use both processors you really weren't getting the benefits of the Saturn.  One major thing the Saturn had going for it was its 2D capabilities.  For example, if you look at Resident Evil for the PlayStation in comparison to the Saturn, the characters have more detail in their textures on the Saturn.  All the 3D polygons are created with quads and any textured polygons are in fact sprites.  You cannot texture map anything on the Saturn, though you can create tools to convert texture maps to sets of sprites.

It gets bashed for being notoriously difficult to program, but I find the Saturn to be wonderfully quirky from a programmer's perspective.
 

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If I remember correctly, Virtua Fighter 2 was the first, and maybe only title on the Saturn that actually used everything to it's fullest. Even Sega staff at the time, talked about how hard it was to get everything out of the Saturn, due to the parallel processing set up. VF2 was for sure one of the best tiles on the Saturn, and really showed what was possible when games where done right. Sadly, very few programmers took the time to do what VF2 did, but maybe they just didn't have the time or resources.

I loved the Saturn, it's one of my all time favorites. I'm looking forward to some handheld full speed emulation at some point, as I never run my gaming PC much.

Chris
 

rygD

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Both the Saturn and PlayStation had C++ compilers (though there is a note in SEGA's Saturn SDK to not use C++ for performance reasons).  The main problem was synchronising the SH-2s in the Saturn and if you didn't use both processors you really weren't getting the benefits of the Saturn.  One major thing the Saturn had going for it was its 2D capabilities.  For example, if you look at Resident Evil for the PlayStation in comparison to the Saturn, the characters have more detail in their textures on the Saturn.  All the 3D polygons are created with quads and any textured polygons are in fact sprites.  You cannot texture map anything on the Saturn, though you can create tools to convert texture maps to sets of sprites.

It gets bashed for being notoriously difficult to program, but I find the Saturn to be wonderfully quirky from a programmer's perspective.
I never had much interest in a Saturn other than recent curiosity, but this makes me appreciate it a lot more.  Too bad, as a lowly player, I wouldn't get to enjoy the quirkiness as much.
 

Exophase

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They had different strengths and weaknesses.

PS1 was just better designed for 3D. It had a coprocessor dedicated to geometry transformation and lighting calculations. In theory Saturn had a DSP meant for this purpose, but in practice it was a poor fit for it and thus games didn't use it. Instead 3D games had to use one of the two SH2 cores for this purpose and even with an entire core dedicated to this purpose they would still struggle to get comparable throughput to what PS1 games could accomplish. Which is probably why most 3D Saturn games don't bother with lighting at all even though the VDP1 chip supported gouraud shading (in a kind of crappy form), because it was one less set of per-vertex calculation the CPU had to do.

VDP1 was also not really that well thought out for 3D. Sprites are a lot more restrictive for meshing than triangles, they don't lend themselves well to tessellation or clipping, and Saturn's implementation causes internal overdraw which both wastes fillrate and breaks blending. It also lacks the higher internal resolution + dithering and uses a lower precision additive gouraud shading instead of multiplicative. And because the framebuffer and textures are in different RAMs there are various render-to-texture effects it can't do, at least not without a huge efficiency hit. On the other hand, Saturn's sprites didn't warp as badly in perspective as PS1's affine triangles did.

Saturn may have more total VRAM, like this article points out, but stating that alone is misleading. What it has is 512KB of framebuffer memory, 512KB of VDP1 memory, and 512KB of VDP2 memory. Since normal framebuffer configurations don't use nearly the entire 256KB some of the framebuffer RAM gets wasted. Some of the VDP1 memory gets wasted by requiring display lists to be stored there, in a very inefficient format requiring 32 bytes for every command even if they don't need nearly that much and the gouraud shading tables aren't even stored with the commands (another possible reason why it isn't used a lot). And there isn't really a useful 8bpp paletted mode, which is fairly commonly used on PS1, so some gets wasted there. As for VDP2, well it's only useful for as much as the game can use it, which is for 2D stuff plus one projected plane. So all told, it's hard to say that Saturn's VRAM configuration is always better than PS1's unified 1MB.

That VDP2 plane can be a big asset. I would go so far as to say that it's pretty much the only thing which gave 3D Saturn games a fighting shot against PS1. That and the 8bpp mode which resulted in some unshaded/very flat looking but high resolution fighting games. And for 2D games VDP2 is just largely advantageous in general.
 

rygD

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Whoosh!  All flew over my bald head.   :lol:
In your picture you have hair.  Is that from 29 years ago, or did you just decide to shave your head? :p
 

gunrock

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I used to a be a games programmer back in those days (1997 - 2000) and spent most of my time on the PSX. I helped out the Saturn guy a bit with the PSX port and the thing that struck me most was how much better Sony's libraries were than Sega's. You needed like a page and half of initialisation on the Saturn and it had to be in the right order otherwise the machine would lock-up. The PSX in comparison needed about five lines or so. 

Although the PSX framerate suffered with layered transparencies, it could at least do them. I think with the Saturn it was nigh on impossible to do so and if it was, there were dire performance consequences, which falls in with Exophase's point about texture ram and framebuffer occupying different memory locations. 

Also, nobody I knew ever programmed either system in C++. The code was C as it was simpler and easier on memory requirements (you only had 2mb remember on PSX) and exception handling was a performance drain, especially on the PSX where memory access (even reads) were slow. The two outstanding engine/core programmer guys I worked with in that time (I was the low-level subsystem, peripherals guy, with odds 'n sods like game camera, some game AI and menus and game-state transition handling code), got the game to a near mature state then converted the main rendering loop to R3000. The rest stayed in C.

BTW, if you ever want to compare the two, take a look at the Saturn and PSX versions of Tomb Raider side-by-side. The Saturn one I believe came out first (and Core weren't slouches when it came to the Saturn) and whilst both systems framerates chug a bit, the framerate and general fidelity of the PSX is higher. Tomb Raider II didn't come out on Saturn (system was all but dead for non-Sega support), but if you compare side-by-side you'll see a massive performance increase in framerate over TR1, whilst poly counts were up.
 
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Exophase

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Also, nobody I knew ever programmed either system in C++. The code was C as it was simpler and easier on memory requirements (you only had 2mb remember on PSX) and exception handling was a performance drain, especially on the PSX where memory access (even reads) were slow. The two outstanding engine/core programmer guys I worked with in that time (I was the low-level subsystem, peripherals guy, with odds 'n sods like game camera, some game AI and menus and game-state transition handling code), got the game to a near mature state then converted the main rendering loop to R3000. The rest stayed in C.
Yeah, I don't think C++ was very commonly used for console code in this era. With PS1 and Saturn I'd more say that a lot of them were moving away from pure assembly language for the first time, and like you say there was still a fair bit of that too. But it's interesting to note that at least some GBA games were using C++ despite being very RAM restricted (with the addition of code and constant data accessed directly from cartridge ROM). At least one GBA game, Mother 3, was obviously done with C++; the this pointers and setter/getter functions are pretty blatant.

On the topic of main RAM, Saturn had 2MB of it like PS1, but it consisted of two 1MB chunks in completely different sections of the address space. Leading me to believe that they added the second 1MB late in the design process. This may have been a more subtle impediment to design. Unless you had many small allocations you would struggle to fill up the first 1MB without wasting space, and larger allocations are preferable for many things.

On the other hand, PS1 made you use a tiny 1KB scratchpad RAM for data reads or be subject to main RAM access times, while Saturn had a unified cache that worked with both code and data. So more care was necessary to allocate the most critical items in that scratchpad.

 
 

gunrock

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Yeah, we stuck the stack in the scratchpad, got a crazy speedup like 10 or 15%. Of course I had to do a mass of stack depth checking (i.e builds that monitored stack depth after testers had been through the game in multiple modes several times in a single sitting) before we left it in there.
 

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I found the history of the Saturn quite interesting. Planed as 2D Console but due the success of the PSX pimped for 3D, it was a big technical mess inside. Alot of PCB's, alot of chips, almost nobody was able to take the full advantage out of the Saturn, but surprisingly it had some nice games. I never owned a Saturn but we had one back then at the Army in a friends room, good times playing Saturn Bomberman with up to 10 people. Panzer Dragoon was also a very impressive game back then. :)
 

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In 1993, Sega restructured its internal studios in preparation for the Saturn's launch. To ensure high-quality 3D games would be available early in the Saturn's life, and to create a more energetic working environment, developers from Sega's arcade division were instructed to create console games. New teams, such as Panzer Dragoon developer Team Andromeda, were formed during this time.
In March 1995, Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske announced that the Saturn would be released in the U.S. on "Saturnday" (Saturday) September 2, 1995. However, Sega of Japan mandated an early launch to give the Saturn an advantage over the PlayStation.
May 11 instead of September. The devkits were not totally ready (bugged as hell). The hardware was a nightmare to optimize for. And most launch games weren't finished either.
This is about how much you can get a release wrong. No matter SEGA's efforts, it just wasn't nearly enough. The launch of a platform is about as important as its entire lifetime can be.

SEGA of Japan were almost the only ones who made quality exclusive games for the platform. Sonic wasn't anything more than a load of disappointment, and the controller wasn't fitting to the era (just like the DC).
Electronic Arts lost money in the Saturn days, so they boycotted the Dreamcast. That is one of the reasons the DC failed to me. NFS : Porsche Unleashed on DC would've been a total dream.
The Saturn, along with the Sega-CD and 32X, were the reasons SEGA couldn't stand as a manufacturer anymore.
 

Wrath Of Khan

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Indeed I was reading that there is a common misconception that the dreamcast was greatly underpowered in comparison to the ps2, gamecube etc.
Most of this was just sony hype. The dreamcast was only around for about two years and developers did have time enough to push its capabilities to the limits.
Perhaps shenmue and shenmue 2 showcase the dreamcast best.
 

levi

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I'm not sure.  The impression I got was that the DC wasn't as powerful as the generation that followed, but it wasn't that far behind the Cube.  The PS2 was probably more powerful than the Cube, but it was another beast to code for, and thanks to something in its video output circuitry always looked a bit shonky on my TV.

Perhaps Shenmue is the most graphically impressive, but I think the flashy Soul Calibur has more style, and the most stylish game on the system is arguably Rez (or maybe SF3).

But back to the Saturn, Sega Rally always looked good to my eyes, probably because a linear racer can throw around relatively many polygons on hardware where depth sorting is a significant cost.
 

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Well it's an urban myth I guess that the Psx was the more powerful machine. I sure did enjoy my psx back in the day though.
Gee you are on a roll, one garbage topic after another - what's next ? Atari coming back with the Jaguar 2, 256 bits machine ? 

There's tons of documentation on the net showing that the Saturn was the worse designed console vs the PSX, you did not need Exophase to jump in to find this kind of things out.
Even Sega added the second processor at a very late stage because they found out the PSX specifications and panicked because they knew they were clearly inferior. Most of the games for Saturn only used a single processor because it was very messy to use both and even the SEGA engineers had tons of trouble with it, that's why the first Virtua Fighter ran like crap. 

Seriously, document yourself because spreading false information around. 
 

ekianjo

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Indeed I was reading that there is a common misconception that the dreamcast was greatly underpowered in comparison to the ps2, gamecube etc.
Most of this was just sony hype. The dreamcast was only around for about two years and developers did have time enough to push its capabilities to the limits.
Perhaps shenmue and shenmue 2 showcase the dreamcast best.
There was nothing to push much with the Dreamcast anyway, the PowerVR chip it used had limitations and was already widely used on PC so there was no miracle to expect even if it had lived for a much longer time. The PS2 case was very difference because it had a non-PC like architecture and therefore it took much longer to have proper tools to make the best use of it. 
 

ekianjo

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The Saturn one I believe came out first (and Core weren't slouches when it came to the Saturn) and whilst both systems framerates chug a bit, the framerate and general fidelity of the PSX is higher. 
This is exact, Core Design developed it on Saturn first and there was about a year between the Saturn and the PS version, and the PS version was much, much better in all regards. At the same time the PS version looked like utter crap vs the PC version with a Voodoo card :)

One more thing, SEGA did not make a fuss at all of Tomb Raider, and it's thanks to Sony that it became a worldwide phenomenon. Thats where you see that SEGA had clearly lost it by then, 
 
 

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There was nothing to push much with the Dreamcast anyway, the PowerVR chip it used had limitations and was already widely used on PC so there was no miracle to expect even if it had lived for a much longer time. The PS2 case was very difference because it had a non-PC like architecture and therefore it took much longer to have proper tools to make the best use of it. 
The PowerVR 2, which powered the DC, never really made it to the PC. It was anything but widely used because there were Voodoo 3s by then. The first one did have its market.
With TBDR the PowerVR showed better management of its processing power. And it was quite easier to develop for than the PS2.
While the PS2 had two times the main RAM, it had only half of the DC's 8MBs of video memory. Some programmers even had to stream data directly from the DVD.
And I'm not mentioning that PS2 games often had to use 8-bit textures given the memory. Well, now I am.
While the PS2 could indeed show more absolute power than the Dreamcast, it didn't have its simplicity. Plus, the DC allowed for easier PC ports with Windows CE and DirectX 6.

I would say that you could put a hardware's final performance this way :
(absolute computational power available) * (ease of programming and optimization)

These two are subject to change during its lifetime. For example, the first one is always improved on PCs, while the experience and tech data gathered during a console's life helps the second one. That would easily explain why the latter games of a platform look better.
The DC had less power but more ease of use than the PS2. And it didn't live long enough to be better optimized. I can't find the quote, but Yu Suzuki once said that even Shenmue II didn't use the 100% of its power.
The Saturn had the exact opposite versus the PlayStation. As said before, SEGA arcade devs joined in because they were more up to date regarding complex hardware and 3D processing. We never truly reached the system's limits because of how complicated it was.
 
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gunrock

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It's off-topic but the Dreamcast had hardware texture compression which helped massively and also the PowerVR righted some of the wrongs of the PSX and Saturn, in that transparencies were not a massive performance hit. Dreamcast could do several multiple layers of transparency without slowdown. The VGA was a winner and it's a shame that more marketing wasn't done with it in it's lifetime.

Have to say that the Windows CE stuff was a waste of time and not worth the overhead. The only CE game I own - the risible Urban Chaos, chugged terribly and looked like ass.
 
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