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      Retro Development — genesis games

      Pushing the Sega Genesis to Its Limits

      Pushing the Sega Genesis to Its Limits

      All of this information is getting pulled from the following series of videos. If you are planning on doing anything along these lines, it is a great idea to not only read this document but also watch the videos that are being referenced. They break down how to do these effects piece by piece in order to achieve these impressive effects:


      2-Color 60FPS Full Screen Animations


      Doing a full-screen animation, even at two colors, at 60 frames per second would obviously be way too large to fit on a Genesis game. Even with compression, it would end up being larger than the max size. In order to get around that, the creators of Sonic 3D Blast took a very interesting approach to achieve the effect.

      This is a single frame pulled out of the animation. The way that they were able to create the fluid motion is by making the animation itself ¼ of the perceived amount of frames and then overlaying a handful of frames on top of each other with different palette indexes. They then set palette index0 to a dark color and then the appropriate indexes for the first “subframe” to a light color. Finally, all other indexes are set to the same color as index0. Then they simply cycled the palette between frame changes to animate all of the subframes to create the smooth animation. So while it looks like a smooth 60fps animation, it’s really a very choppy 15fps animation with a ton of palette cycling going on in it. What that means for an artist is that they have to set up each frame to have a series of frames overlaid on top of each other. Each of these subframes needs to be a unique color, as does any area where subframes overlap like in the above image.


      3 Dimensional Curvature


      This is an interesting trick that makes use of horizontal scan line interrupts and a lot of math to create a 3 Dimensional perspective with a slight curvature to it. The background itself is composed of a tileable portion that is mirrored and then offset in a way to hide the seam where it is mirrored.

      Those are the mirrored segments lined up to show that they are indeed mirrored, but when they are placed next to each other, you can see that the artist did it in a way that the mirroring would be hidden.

      The way the perspective curve is achieved is entirely through using horizontal interrupts to remove select horizontal lines from rendering, and doing it in a curve in order to make it shrink the higher you go up the screen.

      The resulting combination will give you a full image that looks like this:

      In motion with a vertical scroll, it gives off a pretty great sense of perspective. There are about a million different ways this concept can be used as well other than just perspective tricks. Using this method you should be able to actually squish and stretch entire background layers vertically for example.


      Full on FMVs in a Genesis game


      The first thing that was done to save a little bit of space to make a fully rendered video actually fit into a full-featured game was the make the video slightly shorter than the native screen resolution, as well as only rendering it at 16 colors (as opposed to using the four available palettes). The video itself is played back at 15fps to further save space. Then finally they used RNC compression on the entire thing to shrink it down even further. The problem with RNC compression though is that it can’t process fast enough for a nearly full-screen 15pfs screen animation. This is where they yet again used horizontal scan-line interrupts.

      This is what the video looks like in the game when you are playing it.

      This is what the image that is being rendered actually is. They took the frames of the video and sliced a bunch of horizontal lines out of it to produce an extremely shortened version of the image. You’ll also notice all of the vertical lines running through the image. RNC compression handles vertical lines a little better than dithering patterns. Those lines will be dealt with shortly though.

      In order to make the image fill the screen, they used horizontal interrupts to duplicate each line of the image, stretching it back out to fill the screen up. That is how they went from the short image above to a nearly full-screen image in the final product.

      In order to change the horizontal lines into a dithering pattern, they offset every other scanline by one pixel, creating the checkerboard pattern that you would expect. They went back and offset the odd scan-lines instead of the even ones and alternated between the two at a constant 60fps. Doing this took what was originally just a series of vertical lines and convincingly turned it into some extra colors. In the end, the entire 12.5 second FMV only ends up weighing roughly 660kb, which is only a small portion of the available 4MB of the total ROM.



      Enemy Design 201 - Lethal Wedding

      Enemy Design 201 - Lethal Wedding
      The second in a series about designing enemy concepts and behavior, using examples from Lethal Wedding.

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      We Got Dungeons - Dev Log 3

      We Got Dungeons - Dev Log 3


      A look at structures and game objects for our tactical RPG on the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive.

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      We Got Dungeons - A Tactical RPG for the Sega Genesis! Dev Log 1

      We Got Dungeons - A Tactical RPG for the Sega Genesis! Dev Log 1

      We got a danger. We got to battle. We got tactics. We got a choice. We got a story. We Got Dungeons.

      Imagine that Neil Gaiman wrote a novel about Buffy the Vampire Slayer investigating some weirdness in Earthbound. Now imagine that this novel was actually a tactical RPG with some rogue-like elements and a unique progression and customization system. Now imagine that this RPG came out for the Sega Genesis in the 90s.

      Still with me? Good…


      We Got Dungeons is a tactical RPG with:

      • Procedurally generated dungeons - every dungeon and every room have different layouts for enemies, traps, hazards, and treasure. No playthrough is the same!
      • Multiple storylines. Pick your lead character and experience 9 different tales about coming to terms with yourself and your world.
      • 90s theme - take on the other side with retro video games, Pogs, and VHS tapes in the mall, in the park, and beyond
      • Tactical combat - choose your party and engage with evil troll dolls and possessed grunge kids. Use strategic positioning and mastery of skills to pull through challenging encounters and battles.
      • Unique customization - The Skill Board system gives you complete control over your characters. Equip any ability, any perk, any stat increase you want -- if you got the room for it, you can use it.


      In a 90s suburbia, not everything is as fly as it seems. Beneath the veneer of normalcy lies cynicism, doubt, and dissatisfaction with life. People want something, they just don't know what that is. But forces from the beyond think they have the answer, and things get weird when they begin to enter our world through the mundane. Weird like your neighbor’s basement going down ten floors. Weird like movie rental stores that are bigger on the inside than on the outside. Weird like your favorite VHS tape trying to choke you to death.

      These forces are launching unannounced, unplanned, uninvited visits to our reality. It’s an unbidden invasion of suburbia, an unsought for contact from beyond the screen that separates us from them… and it all starts in your town…


      So who is gonna step up to stop this invasion? Who can we depend on to turn the tide of this sinister threat? The military? Superheroes? 90s cartoon characters?

      Actually, the world’s last hope is your mother.

      Eschewing the traditional RPG/tactical RPG heroes of knights, wizards, and rogues, We Got Dungeons features ordinary people in a situation that is definitely buggin’. Luckily, the weirdness that is creeping in from the other side is amping up some of their everyday abilities. Let’s meet a couple of our unsung heroes:

      The Troublemaker

      She’s a high-school delinquent that cuts class, smokes, and runs afoul of the local neighborhood watch. Whether it’s flaunting the town’s “No Skateboarding” laws or tagging the convenience store with graffiti, you know the troublemaker is to blame.

      Her skateboard and spraypaint come in handy as useful weapons, and she has a variety of skills (like bullying and shoplifting) that make her a versatile character.

      Your Mother

      Dear old mom. Everyone has one. Always there for you, she’ll love you forever, no matter what you do. But don’t let all those bedtime stories, embarrassing baby pictures, and boo-boo kisses fool you; when push comes to shove, mom is who you want on your side to fend off the forces from beyond.

      Mom can make you feel better, easing all your troubles and woes with a hug. Or she can totally mess up your social life by grounding you. Either way, the weirdness invading our reality is sure to find out that there is no such thing as “just” a mother.

      We Got More...

      Want more dungeons? Keep reading our series of dev logs here. More classes, tons of weapons, armies of 90s enemies -- we are pushing the Sega Genesis to its limits for this one. Next time we’ll introduce some abilities that put the "Tactic" in "Tactical RPG", and a dungeon boss you may recognize from a famous basement…