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Old 21 September 2015, 00:39   #1
eXeler0
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If you would design a new game console...

I have a whole bunch of old consoles.. Sometimes the hardware is interesting, sometimes it has really interesting games, sometimes the story about how it came into existence is the thing....
...but the stuff that intrigues me the most is the reasons for its failure..

Most of us are familiar with the story of poor old Commodore and how sometimes small decisions at the top have catastrophic consequences..
Looking at the big picture, there is a whole lot to be learned from history..
A lot of consoles failed due to poor software, poor hardware, or were simply released at the wrong time or the wrong price...

So I was wondering.. With our collected wisdom about gamings consoles and computers over the past 30-40 years, how would we design a gaming console and why would we make these particular choices?

Obviously it matters if you have Micro$oft money behind your idea or if you are doing a kickstarter to collect the pennies...
But apart from strictly financial worries..
What market segment would you target? Pricing? Technology used? Would it be digital or physical media? Design - small, cute, big, high-tech, retro? What software would it be based on? Technological architecture? Bring back the bit-wars? ;-) Low Power? Super High performance? Jack of all trades or specialized?

My take:
  • Price: ~€400 (even if hardware would initially cost more, not pulling a "3do" here..) ANd then trying to lower the cost as time goes by.
  • Market segment: Old skool and/or hardcore gamers , truly and fully 4k capable (not "barely being to able to display a pic @4k")
  • Architecture: 64-bit+ (stuff like the memory bus would obviously be much higher)
  • Architecture, details: CPU, 8-core low power, possibly dual (2x) upcoming nVidia (Pascal architechture) Tegra chip. (whatever it will be named... X2?). Provided they can work in "SLI" mode in a meaningful way.
  • Memory: At least 8GB 3D RAM (Shared)
  • Internal Design: CPU+3D Memory placed on daughter-card for future upgrades.
  • Game Media: Physical, probably "cartridge-like" where the contents of the cartridge can be updated with signed digital downloads, but game would load from the cartridge, not installed on an internal drive in the console. (I hate playing on PS3, every time I start a game that hasn't been played for a while, it starts downloading a zillion patches, and 30 minutes later you forgot why you turned on the console, compare that to old cartridge based systems with startup times close to zero). I like consoles where I can play a game 20 years later without the need of some servers being up to provide you the necessary content.. ;-)
  • Console could receive media completely through digital downloads as well (Market-place for Indy devs)
  • Small, fast and reliable (AND replacable) SSD drive for the main OS etc... Additional SATA 6Gbit (or better) connector for optional secondary SSD
  • OS: minimalistic, anti-bloatware Linux based, fully using the new Vulkan API for graphics. (Installing something like Ubuntu on the secondary drive would be possible I guess)
  • Cyanogenmod / Android compatible and can be configured for dual boot.
  • Design: Small-ish (Think PS Two)
  • Controller: System would accept several USB / Bluetooth controllers already out there. Optional Keyboard, Mouse and Arcade joysticks.


And how about you? What would you do?


/eX
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Old 21 September 2015, 00:55   #2
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These people think they have the answer to this question. I listened to a podcast interview with the developers recently and noticed they're making some pretty bold claims; games will be released as the finished product (no patching necessary) and there will never be another VGS because it won't be necessary to stay current due to the ability to upgrade the firmware etc.

I like the theory behind it all, but it sounds a lot like Ouya Take 2... which as we know wasn't a resounding success.

I think the next big thing has to provide something never seen before, otherwise why would anyone trade in their Xbox or Playstation? Maybe we'll have to wait for total immersion gaming. VR is just round the corner don't you know.
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Old 21 September 2015, 01:05   #3
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Ye saw that one.. bares no resemblance whatsoever to the Atari Jaguar :-)
About VR, maybe I should have mentioned it but ye, the dual GPU i included is partially for decent stereoscopic 3d gaming.

(I also should have said a bit more about the software model but hey, its getting late, need to get up for work in about 5 hours ;-) )
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Old 21 September 2015, 01:33   #4
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A system is useless without third party developer support and launching anything these days would pretty much be a waste of time for a new company, it just would not be successful due to the main three players having the market wrapped up and the cost of developing games would keep developers away since there would not be much money in it for them.

A 16 or 32bit system for a niche market would be nice, the problem is 16bit games had graphical charms for example, that just aren't compatible with the technology people expect in electronics these days like HD resolutions.

Someone should just license and manufacture existing hardware like the SNES if anyone was willing to write games of the calibre we were getting in the 90s. But there is the problem again, no big companies will make games for a niche market like that. The Dreamcast still does alright with some indy games but as a profit making machine for a company with thousands of employees it's a none starter.

The description of your take is basically a PC. They do everything you mentioned and can come in at the price as well if you don't expect the best of everything. Consoles have had their day, with each passing generation they are turning more and more into PC's just the OS is closed.

Give it 10 or 20 years and I think console hardware will be a thing of the past - Sony, Nintendo and MS will simply sell the operating systems for use on PC hardware.
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Old 21 September 2015, 07:35   #5
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A 68k-based system with modestly capable tiled graphics and some kind of SID-like synthesizer-on-a-chip digital/analog hybrid sound source, and no HD output whatsoever.
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Old 21 September 2015, 08:46   #6
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Only thing that comes to my mind, and I doubt even that would succeed, but NeoGeo wasnt very powerful system, yet it went all the way to 2000, because they decided to add loads of memory to it. Hence it was able to do things that looked massive, even it was only, was it 68020 or 68030 based perhaps?

When considering how cheap memory is nowadays, perhaps a game console that would be targeted for 2D games, but with 1Gb of memory available.

This way they processor could be cheap one too, since it wouldnt necessarily need the most powerful one to be able to run 2D games.

However, if no one makes games for it, it is useless, and if no one buys it, no one wants to make games. To get around this, would be to have integrated emulator inside it for every retro machine.

This way the retro group would buy the machine for emulator purposes, and hence there could be enough people to justify making specific games for it without using the emulator.

This could create some unique games. But I still dont quite see it breaking through. Just having a chance yet.
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Old 21 September 2015, 15:11   #7
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As others have eluded to hardware is secondary these days, it's all about the games. I will probably buy every console Nintendo ever make because they make my favourite games, simple as that. IMO graphics/sound etc have already peaked, if you compare NES to N64 the difference is mind blowing, if you compare PS2 to PS4 (roughly the same time period) little has changed.
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Old 21 September 2015, 16:00   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bugala View Post
Only thing that comes to my mind, and I doubt even that would succeed, but NeoGeo wasnt very powerful system, yet it went all the way to 2000, because they decided to add loads of memory to it. Hence it was able to do things that looked massive, even it was only, was it 68020 or 68030 based perhaps?
Very different times - 2D was still preferred by many gamers until 2000 and the NeoGeo as such could survive without much effort in the 2D world. As soon as gamers started wanting 3D games all over the place, the NeoGeo was dead in the water.

No 020 or 030 by the way, just a plain ol' 68k
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Old 21 September 2015, 23:38   #9
eXeler0
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edd_jedi View Post
As others have eluded to hardware is secondary these days, it's all about the games. I will probably buy every console Nintendo ever make because they make my favourite games, simple as that. IMO graphics/sound etc have already peaked, if you compare NES to N64 the difference is mind blowing, if you compare PS2 to PS4 (roughly the same time period) little has changed.
First of all, the creators of PS4 game "The Order: 1886" would probably cry a bit for that statement about PS2 vs PS4 ;-) But, ye sure, going from 8 bit side scroilling gfx to 64 bit 3D is more noticable than going from 3d to better 3d.

But back to your original statement. Hardware doesnt matter, its all about the games? Well, why do you think Wii U isnt getting the big releases you see on XBone & PS4? Devs cant be bothered to spend time on making an inferior port for a lesser system. And if sales are anything to go by, Sony is doing something better than Nintendo even without Mario...
OTOH If the Wii U was equal to the PS4 in terms of power and had a similar architecture, then it would be easy to port all games to it. Then Nintendo would have most of the big titles + their own unique stuff.. So, I beg to differ... Hardware matters IMO...
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Old 22 September 2015, 00:00   #10
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Originally Posted by -Acid- View Post
A system is useless without third party developer support and launching anything these days would pretty much be a waste of time for a new company, it just would not be successful due to the main three players having the market wrapped up and the cost of developing games would keep developers away since there would not be much money in it for them.
Well the situation is as it is, its tough to get a foot into the market, but if you make your hardware powerful enough, at least you don't make ports from other platforms a "mission from hell" for devs. And hardware used is well known for developers so there is no mystery custom CPU that will take 4 years to master.

Quote:
Originally Posted by -Acid- View Post
A 16 or 32bit system for a niche market would be nice, the problem is 16bit games had graphical charms for example, that just aren't compatible with the technology people expect in electronics these days like HD resolutions.

Someone should just license and manufacture existing hardware like the SNES if anyone was willing to write games of the calibre we were getting in the 90s. But there is the problem again, no big companies will make games for a niche market like that. The Dreamcast still does alright with some indy games but as a profit making machine for a company with thousands of employees it's a none starter.
You are probably right about nische markets, that's why my consol isnt one. It would at worst run all Android games (and at least technically - all "Tegra Zone" titles) at stellar framerates.
Best case scenario, it could play steam games (for Linux) and get the big ports from the other consoles + lots of interesting indie-stuff...
Of course, if a deal was struck with the right content provider, there's always the possibility of streaming games straight from the cloud. Obviously that is fairly exclusive to Sony atm (Playstation now service)

Quote:
Originally Posted by -Acid- View Post
The description of your take is basically a PC. They do everything you mentioned and can come in at the price as well if you don't expect the best of everything. Consoles have had their day, with each passing generation they are turning more and more into PC's just the OS is closed.

Give it 10 or 20 years and I think console hardware will be a thing of the past - Sony, Nintendo and MS will simply sell the operating systems for use on PC hardware.
Its a lot less PC that the XboxOne , which X86 based, running a crippled version of windows and runs games from Harddrive or Blueray.

"My proposed console" is using low power ARM based + nVidia GFX Tegra chips, it uses a minimalistic OS that doesn't get in your way and games run from (a modern incarnation of) cartridges that ppl will wanna collect while still offering plenty of power for VR gaming as well as providing a generous platform for indie devs AND it runs Android games :-)
It does not force you to use some crappy controller but allows you to use your favorite one from other systems.

Ok, back to reality... Ye, it currently seems nearly impossible to take a market share from the big 3. Lets face it, nVidia could produce something like this and still fail to make an impact...
But..
I never actually said I would compete with the big 3.. what if this was the Nintendo NX.. (next console from Nintendo, expected in 2016/17). Would that turn things around for you?
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Old 22 September 2015, 19:17   #11
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There are no definite plans for a new DS console as of yet. But considering that Nintendo dominate the hand-held gaming market and have done for years now, there is an almost certainty that Nintendo will release a new generation of the DS or some other hand-held gaming device

Umm.. Yes?
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Old 22 September 2015, 20:47   #12
Amigajay
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Very different times - 2D was still preferred by many gamers until 2000
I think your find 3D was preferred from 1995 onwards after the Playstation and Saturn came out, otherwise the snes and megadrive would have stayed around until 2000!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bugala View Post
Only thing that comes to my mind, and I doubt even that would succeed, but NeoGeo wasnt very powerful system, yet it went all the way to 2000, because they decided to add loads of memory to it. Hence it was able to do things that looked massive, even it was only, was it 68020 or 68030 based perhaps?

.
The Neo-Geo was a 2D powerhouse in 1990, plus they never added memory to it...the rom cartridges got bigger sure but the base system stayed the same and it never had carts that enhanced the system like the SNES.

Last edited by TCD; 22 September 2015 at 20:50. Reason: Back-to-back posts merged.
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Old 22 September 2015, 20:52   #13
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Hence it was able to do things that looked massive, even it was only, was it 68020 or 68030 based perhaps?
Quote:
Main CPU processor: Motorola 68000 (often a second sourced version, usually by Toshiba or Hitachi) @ 12 MHz (16/32-bit instructions @ 1.75 MIPS)
CPU co-processor: Zilog Z80 @ 4 MHz (also used as audio controller) (8/16-bit instructions @ 0.58 MIPS)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo_Geo_%28system%29#CPU
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Old 22 September 2015, 21:05   #14
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Thing is a new console would require major processing power.

Underpowered consoles such as the OUYA and its ilk which are based around Android have died horrible deaths.

So unless it's made in volume would be an expensive project. Also getting developers to jump at unproven hardware makes the climb even harder.
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Old 22 September 2015, 22:12   #15
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The major console makers can't be competed with in performance. I wouldn't try. I would go relatively low cost, flexible and offer more freedom.

My console is a Cherry Pi (slogan: Cherry is sweeter than Raspberry):
  • Price: ~€150 (case with Blu-Ray), ~€130 (case with DVD), ~€120 (case no CD), ~€90 (motherboard only)
  • Market segment: retro and semi-modern gaming
  • CPU: Enhanced 68k 32 bit 2-core superscalar with 3x integer units, 1x FPU and 1xSIMD per core
  • Custom hardware: Amiga Enhanced graphics with 3D core to be determined, FPGA
  • Memory: 1-2 GB DDR3 (shared by CPU and gfx)
  • Internal Design: CPU card with memory compatible with big box Amiga processor slot
  • Game Media: CD, USB memory stick or online download (all optional), multi-platform retro CD games recognized and started using an FPGA hardware configuration or emulation
  • Storage: SATA drive of choice or USB
  • OS: updated classic AmigaOS or AROS, full computer capabilities
  • Design: Small-ish PS2 like case (I also like the PS2 case)
  • Controller: System would accept most USB/Bluetooth controllers including other console's controllers. Controllers, keyboards and mice optional.
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Old 22 September 2015, 23:12   #16
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I think your find 3D was preferred from 1995 onwards after the Playstation and Saturn came out, otherwise the snes and megadrive would have stayed around until 2000!
The SNES was manufactured and sold up until 2003 in Japan and games were still being released as late as November of 2000. Most early playstation and saturn games were 2D, it was developers who were desperate to push us to 3D I can't remember anyone I knew demanding 3D games people just bought what there was to chose from.

It wasn't until Mario 64 showed every one how it was done that 3D became the norm. Then once Goldeneye came out that was it and the PC was getting hardware 3D accelerators around mid to end of '96 and then it did move over to the 3D FPS hell years we are still stuck in... dark days it has to be said.

Last edited by -Acid-; 22 September 2015 at 23:19.
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Old 22 September 2015, 23:37   #17
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Yes the MD and Snes and even Amiga had games upto 2000 but they were long dead by then, the biggest markets moved to 3D years before, Doom in 93 and pentiums pushing 3d polys, Mario 64 was late to the 3D scene, yes it defined 3D platforming, but 3D gaming started years before, the 3DO in 1993 really kickstarted console wise. Maybe in Japan PSX and Saturn had some 2D launch games, but in Europe and us most were 3D, people were playing Wipeout, Tekken, Tomb Raider etc not Rapid Reload or Streetfighter the movie!
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Old 23 September 2015, 08:32   #18
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@TCD

I must have mixed the massive memory with the massive Cartridge size then. But actually when you look at it, its not even as muhc space as Amiga CDTV had with Cds.

But difference was the big support for the usage of that space by games that made them look massive then.


@-Acid-

I disagree with you on developers pushing the 3D not audience. Ever since Wolfenstein people were wanting 3D, me included.

And actually even earlier. Since I had already played Elite, Stunt Car racer etc. and waiting with excitement what future would hold when games would be in 3D. And every glimpse to that 3D was always exciting. Also, if it was developers pushing for 3D, then why was there so great efforts made in trying to make 3D fps games to Amiga as well, even to A500?

I also dont ever remember hearing anyone switching to PC because of wanting to play 2D games. No. I remember only two reasons why people were voluntarily changing to PC, they wanted to play 3D games (most) and then there were some who wanted to play RPG/Strategy games, as PC was getting way ahead on that department too compared to Amiga with all the Master of Orions, Master of Magic, Heroes of might and magics... not to mention Dune II and all first came to PCs then to Amigas, and most of time Amiga versions werent as good as their PC counterparts. There are only very few exceptions to this rule, as example Civilization CD32 version in my opinion is best version of first Civilization, but that is understandable when considered it was the last one to come out, and much later than all the other versions did.

Then there was the involuntary group who changed to PCs because tof them being in their workplaces.

But regardless, In my opinion there was great demand for 3D games, and we were looking forward to every now step that was happening there, like the Ultima Underworld making 3D RPG (of course there had been Dungeon Masters, but those were semi 3D).

I however do agree with you that unfortunately they still have not got forward from baby stage, but 3d FPS is unfortunately still the most popular style, making modern game world much more duller place in my opinion.
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Old 23 September 2015, 23:29   #19
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I’d love to release a “current console” generation couch co-op/Lan edition.

Basically a beefed up hub/lan version that can push 4p (or more) local on multiple display configurations at the same time. 2p split on the 50” plasma and the third on a computer monitor in the same game.

Like my own portable lan. Just bring it to the computer lab, instant Cs tournament. Bring it home, Bedroom vs livingroom etc. As an added bonus, no online asshats going on about raping my team etc cos everyone is much more polite when you can punch them in the face.


It can be done with todays hardware, steam streamer and 2d game with mods. 3d games are harder to scale, but still, a lot of them would work fine. Sports game for example. Sensible soccer 10p anyone? I'm not much for MMORPGs.. but I guess mordern hardware could push 5 local instances of World of warcraft, instant afternoon raiding simple to coordinate.

Also the hardware design could be made multiplayer scalable by "stacking" consoles. Like how the naomi arcade boards would render 3 screens using two slave boards and one mainboard.

Last edited by spiff; 24 September 2015 at 17:47.
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Old 25 September 2015, 14:48   #20
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I would go for a very cheap console, with tilebased and bitmapped videomodes, lots of sprites and layers, an ARM cpu. The controller would be in the style of the PS1 or SNES-controller. Some sort of 3D could be supported but I would actually want it to be quite bad at 3D

Soundchip should be something like a beefed up SID, perhaps with a few PCM-channels for sfx, but I wouldn't want to make it easy to just stream music, it should be chip-music!

Storage would be a few GB flash onboard with the possability to extend it with SD-cards or USB-drives.

It would have ethernet (and perhaps wifi) and an "appstore" with the possibility to add 3rd party repositories. Everyone should be able to make games for it but there would be some sort of quality-checking for what gets into the main repository.

And hopefully, it wouldn't be much more expensive than a Raspberry Pi.
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