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Looking back at 2005: Saturn homebrew got better
Wednesday, 28 December, 2005 11:30
Wow, what a year for Saturn homebrew! A small step for man, a giant leap for the Saturn scene. I remember 2004 has been a rather poor year with only a few but good releases like floupix ping pong (vreuzon, hp), star (Reinhart), 12 player snake and 12 player pong (Slinga). Who could have expected that everything would change so much this year?
But why was 2004 so quiet? Maybe because of an aftershock of the contest 2003 and the lack of interest in it? No doubt about that. Personally, I was involved in the development of a voxel rendering framework on PC and Mac, so I had no time.
The success of Saturn homebrew 2005 started in november 2004 with a project that's still unreleased: a port of my voxel rendering framework to SEGA Saturn. It's the first Saturn homebrew known to use the slave CPU and the SCU DSP, too. It got some nice feedback and I liked it. So at the end of 2004, I started to port some handheld videogame emulators to Saturn. Whenever I got a new one working, I threw in some screenshots to let people guess what's running on the Saturn ;) .
In january 2005 I released 4 emulators for SEGA Saturn: Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket Color, Game Boy Color and Wonder Swan Color. Though they are slow, it's been a massive impact in the scene which lead to the highest monthly hits this website every had. And this is also the first time that Saturn homebrew supports external RAM carts.
Then in february I started to focus on my favorite topic: 3D graphics. I was giving some older code a refresh (like PCM conversion, text menu library, CD audio playback) and combined them in the Sound Player. Along with it I released the PCM<->WAV conversion tool RB_SaturnPCM, whose technology was also used in the Sound Player.
This is the first time Saturn homebrew appearance of: realtime gouraud shading, wav file playback, aif and adpcm encoded file playback from CD (!) through the use of PCM lib from SBL.
The next months were spent to improve the Sound Player and most importandly doing some further 3D stuff. I started to merge and improve some 3D SGL examples in order to add new tracks, 2 player display and speed-ups to the DRIVING example. As a part of the RB library, the tool RB_SaturnMAP was created for track conversion and in the future it will have a major influence on Saturn 3D graphics in general. This all was released as the 3d Racing Game Project project in april 2005.
In may there are the roots of the C4 2005 Saturn Coding Contest. I was just playing a popular funny game very often and decided to make a clone for Saturn. This clone is called WinterSports Eins and it is the first game in history that runs on Saturn hardware as well as any computer with SDL. It was released for GP32 and SEGA Saturn. There are also completely finished Windows and MacOS X versions, I was just to lazy to release them.
This has been a very busy time, as I was also preparing the C4 contest, collecting ideas, donations and doing a lot of other things involved in that.
In june suddenly a great tool appeared called Saturn Orbit, with which one can setup a Saturn development environment in minutes. And this was most likely the best that could happen as far as the C4 contest is concerned, which just started on june the 6th.
WinterSports Eins enters two coding contests: the GBAX 2005 (GP32) and the C4 2005 (Saturn). To sum up (sort of) the Saturn knowledge I collected, I made the Saturn Game Tutorial and Demo. It was supposed to support people joining the C4 2005 Saturn Coding Contest. For the very first time in Saturn homebrew, texture slicing was used for 3D model creation as well as a compressed binary texture table.
Time for some really impressive stuff in july. I released several 3D Texture Coordinate Demos which bring a new feature to Saturn: textures that move over polygon surfaces. This allows some modern effects like environment or light reflections on cars for example.
For the active Saturn gamers of us, the september brought the most useful tool they can imagine: the Save Game Manager for SEGA Saturn. For years I had the idea of a filemanager like that. There is no other videogame system that needs save game compression and file splitting so much like the Saturn! The virtual drive concept makes file handling even easier than a Dreamcast with 8 VMUs connected. The action replay firmware update feature makes way for some interesting future developments which - obviously - nobody else realised yet.
Finally in november, the anounced and long awaited Atlas boot disc application has been released in form of The Rockin'-B All Stars. Although we already had the boot disc from 2003 contest, this one was made to be superior as it allows customization in many ways. In this point, neither the Dream Inducer from the Dreamcast can beat it! Oh, not to forget: Rockin'-VR showed up on the disc, about 4 years after it's been started ;-) .
Now in december the world gets to see what the Saturn dev scene can do: the C4 2005 CD is released with Planet de Pon (Cafe-Alpha, hp), Bubble Invasion (Amon X), Stephano Karate Maitre (vreuzon, hp), Makaimura Digger (VBT) and Dungeon Escape (Reinhart) along with WinterSports Eins (Rockin'-B) and the newest Save Game Manager! It's nice to see Saturn homebrew use features like CD audio, sprite animation and custom fonts.
The improved Atlas used for this CD is the first homebrew to use high resolution + double interlace display and different resolutions for VDP1 and VDP2 in general.
But there remains so much that still can be done, so much to be explored. Which things you ask? Well, have a look by yourself next year. Come by and join us again!
This year the Saturn homebrew scene got better in every aspect and I'll continue to try to make things better next year, too.
Have a nice new year everyone!