Red Ronin, The Cybernetic Samurai
Archives: Video Games
Information and older arcticles from my original website.

Nintendo Ultra 64
Fact, Fiction or Fantasy?
Ultra 64 VS. Saturn
Part III

Date: Sun, 05 Nov 1995 10:27:00 GMT
From: Fnord (

Another Long but Enlightening Posting from Fnord

The big issue with U64 seems to be game size. I've recently run into some extremely relieable information on the Ultra (more about that later), so I should be able to clear things up quite a lot. First, yes the original U64 games will be on 64 megabit cartridges. SGI has come up with a compression technique allowing 8:1 compression of rendered images--I'm not sure if this includes the texture maps as well, but if it does than you would agree that this will apply to a large portion of the game--and for sound they will use 4:1 compression, to start out with. This will allow the first games to be at least 200 if not 300 megabits, depending on what all is compressed and how exactly. But the point is they WILL be able to fit a full Daytona on the first cartriges (assuming you meant 180 megabits, which it seems you did considering you used the same units "megs" to compare Super Mario World, a 4 megabit game). When RAM prices fall, they will release 128 cartriges, giving more of a 500 megabit game, I guess. The 800 megabit quote was from Nintendo, but a while ago and only as a generalization of their compression. I think they were referring to a 128 megabit uncompressed cart, though, so maybe my estimates are too low. Anyway, the U64 will handle up to 256 megabit carts, if RAM prices get that low, so at least 1000 megabit if not significantly higher games would be available on cart, if everything hasn't been converted to bulky drive by then. And speaking of the bulky, Nintendo and Netscape have recently formed an alliance to create a new internet program allowing U64 owners with computers and modems (or maybe it will go of off the proposed U64 modem--I'm no sure) to download updates to their games and save them to bulky drive disks. You're a pretty smart guy--I'm sure you can think of quite a few applications for updating games like that.

As for uncompression and buses in general, that will be absolutely no problem. In fact the bus is probably the most powerful thing about U64. To specifically be able to uncompress and give the CPU data as fast as possible, Nintendo formed a partnership with RAMBUS, who came out with a bus which runs @500Mhz (!!) and can move 500 megabits of data from the cartridge to the CPU every second!! (I'm sure that's 500 megs of uncompressed data, but the point is this thing is unbelievably fast enough to do any sorts of amazing decompression and still get enormous amounts of data to the CPU) This bus is the whole reason why U64 is cartridge based--the speed advantage of a cartridge will be able to be fully exploited in U64.

As for how U64 will handle polygons, I doubt there will be a problem. I didn't know about the sprites as polygons thing, and while I'm sure a part of it may be that Daytona just looks great on a 40' screen, Saturn and PSX don't produce polygons of the same quality. Well, U64 was created as a rendered image based system--the thing was mostly built by SGI, for god's sake--and has quite a bit MORE power than frankly any arcade game ever made. KI seems to be towards the most powerful end, and it doesn't even contain most of the good stuff in U64--Crusin' USA, while not as fun as Daytona, has comparable graphics, and it contains only a 32-bit CPU and NO components of U64. I frankly can't come up with a situation where half the screen would be blank because a machine can only do 200 000 polygons instead of 400 000 either--the point is the speed of the machine. And abilities are more important than #'s/sec. I learned that Guoroud shading and Phong shading aren't cooperative--they're mutually exclusive, where Guoroud calculates the light levels at all vertexes and makes light levels of other pixels a gradual change between the vertexes, and where Phong calculates the light levels for every pixel individually. The at least 100 000 mark for U64 was with Phong shading (plus all the morphing, texture mapping, anti-aliasing, skewing, rotating, tri-linear mip map, scaling, a cool thing called Load Management which makes it so distant objects don't appear all at once (as they do in Daytona) but are visible for as long as you would see them in real life, etc. turned on). So, the polygons should look spectacular as they will be Phong shaded most of the time. So I'm not sure if that clears that point up, but I hope it made some sense--and U64 will at least be MUCH MUCH better than Crusin' USA (see my other post on the KI/Crusin' U64 compatability thing).

As for a bad aspect of U64, there's one huge one which I didn't even have to post--it ain't coming out until April!! Plus it won't have the storage capabilities of a CD-ROM, though it will have quite a lot, excluding using compression on the bulky drive, which may not decompress as quickly as it is much slower than the cartriges (only 8 times as fast as Saturn's CD!!!). The games may cost a little more than the competition (though prices of $50-60 are quite likely for the first (64 megabit) games--not the $100 some have claimed based stupidly on Neo-Geo games, which are 100-200 megabits uncompressed). And sure, we can't totally know how good the specs will translate to be, as game pictures are nonexistant (sorry--the Square video is just a demo which they have not confirmed is FF7, though it may be actual video of FF7). But if it's even half as good as its specs promise, U64 should blow Saturn and PSX out of the water.

And for the 64-bit thing, Red Ronan, I've cleared up the bus situation, but I frankly have no idea about the operating system. I don't even have a clue about home video-game operating systems in general, and you seem like a pretty technologically oriented guy, but does it matter, and especially for a home video game system?? I mean, Win 95's 32-bit addressing allow long file names and other stuff, and will add significant speed on a P6 since 32-bit words will include information allowing the CPU to order instructions to complete tasks faster, but 32-bit applications aren't any faster in Win 95 with a normal Pentium, and I'm sure the U64's CPU doesn't have any functions specifically designed for 64-bit words unless U64 uses 64-bit words. You probably know more about this than I do, but whatever.

Finally, about the very relieable data I talked about--Cap Scott's U64 faq is quite excellent, and I believe correct in every respect. It takes a fair-minded look at U64, its specs, games, and other information, and exposes the rumors that have been floating around. It doesn't make much of a value judgement on it, as it doesn't compare it to other systems too much, so I believe you'll find it unbiased enough. It can be found at IGO's webpage and aol site, at his homepage and some other places (sorry I don't have any URL's). I believe that it's a prerequisite for any truly good debate about U64--PLEASE READ IT!!

Date: Sun, 05 Nov 1995 23:24:25 GMT
From: Red Ronin (

Feedback: DON'T MISS THE BUS...

Hiya, Fnord!

Ok, the reason why a 64-bit OS and 64-bit Development System will be needed for the U64 is that all chip technologies have certain features that cannot be accessed directly using smaller (non-system-specific) words. So yes, a 64-bit chip will run 16-bit code god-awful fast, far more efficient than any 16 bit chip, but to unleash its full capabilities, 16 or 32-bit words just CAN'T do the job. IF the U64 really has a full 64-bit main processor, you will NEVER see its full potential realized even if what it does accomplish blows away the competition. The same is true about the 64-bit bus. That's why I think those things will ultimately become necessary.

The idea of teaming Nintendo with Netscape for online upgrades to software, online gaming, and home development/modification of games is a good one. Again, I HOPE this is true, because this would be a major advance to offer consumers.

I can deal with pre-existing textures being placed on polygon constructs in real time because I pretty much expect that, but I would want the complete texture of a character on-screen to be generated from scratch in every frame otherwise any claims of realtime raytracing would be untrue.

Lemme know if you get more specific info regarding the bulky drive, including price, availability and capacity.

Clatu Verata Nicto,

Red Ronin, The Cybernetic Samurai

Re: Feedback: DON'T MISS THE BUS... (Red Ronin)
Date: Tue, 07 Nov 1995 18:15:31 GMT
From: Fnord (

Bulky Drive Stuff

Like I said, if you want to get what seems to be the most accurate info on U64, get Cap Scott's FAQ. It says the bulky will be around $200-$230, with 3 Megs RAM, and should hold 135 Megabytes. This would be uncompressed, but like I said, as it isn't nearly as fast as carts it may not be able to get decompressed fast enough to use compression in the same amounts that the cartriges will--I'm not sure whether decompression speed depends more on the bus, which will absolutely rock, or the transfer speed, or what. It won't be out when U64 is released, and probably not for a year or so, but it is being supported by many companies who do not want the extra cost of cart development, as well as the recent Netscape announcement, so it should definately come out.

Re: Feedback: DON'T MISS THE BUS... (Red Ronin)
Date: Tue, 07 Nov 1995 18:30:04 GMT
From: Fnord (

One more thing

You'd probably know more about this than I would, but if a 64-bit OS is that important, why wouldn't they just make one?? Is it too expensive, or hard to program, or hard to program for, or what?? 'Cause Nintendo obviously isn't that dumb--if a 64-bit OS will improve their system and doesn't have any drawbacks, then they'd include one, right?? And if they don't have the expertise to program one, they would just hire someone else to--they've hired outside experts for almost every technical aspect of U64.

Re: One more thing (Fnord)
Date: Thu, 09 Nov 1995 01:47:11 GMT
From: Red Ronin (

Feedback: Yeah, it's VERY hard to do...


Yeah, it's VERY hard to do - creating a 64-bit OS from scratch. Why? Well, even though most computers in use today are 32-bit or 16/32-bit, ASCII plain text such as what you see here is still defined strictly as 8-bit in most applications. Chalk it all up to pure laziness - you see, in order to meet tight guidelines and schedules for the release date of software/hardware NO ONE has even gone so far as to make a 100% 16-bit machine EVER. That is, a machine wherein EVERY SINGLE CHIP, from main processor to coprocessor to support chips were ALL 16-bit. Neither have they done this with 32-bit machines either. It comes down to this, most manufacturers feel that good enough to work is good enough to sell. There is no pride in excellence and of completion craftsmanship. A lazy programmer can these days do passable software for 32 and 64-bit machines using only 16-bit code because most people will never notice the difference. Laziness breeds more laziness as more and more programmers realize what they can get away with and still get paid. 16-bit development systems have been around for over a decade but most programmers didn't even start using them until about five years ago. Things even get worse when it comes to peripherals. Do you think the silicon inside the Genesis or SNES controllers was 16-bit? Trust me, they weren't. I look at a SYSTEM as being all-inclusive. Others aren't so strict.

Clatu Verata Nicto,

Red Ronin, The Cybernetic Samurai

Re: Another Long but Enlightening Posting from Fnord (Fnord)
Date: Sun, 12 Nov 1995 03:22:32 GMT
From: Red Ronin (

Feedback: I KNEW I missed something!!!


I KNEW I missed something before and I just realized what it was!!! Phong shading and Gouraud shading are performed using RAYTRACING techniques, so if the U64 has realtime Phong OR Gouraud shading, then it ALSO has REALTIME RAYTRACING!!! I KNOW this can't be true. SUN WORKSTATIONS take about 3 minutes to generate and display a SINGLE FRAME of a Phong shaded scene!!! There's NO FLAMING WAY the U64 will be able to generate scenes at even ONE frame per second using realtime raytracing unless they use a 2x2 pixel display!!!

Dude, you have been duped. The simple fact of the matter is that there is NO WAY to do the things you believe the U64 is capable of (without holodeck technology...).

Based upon what I have seen regarding the U64, it WILL be a MARVELOUS piece of hardware with some excellent games and ground-breaking graphics. BUT NO MY FRIEND, those graphics WILL NOT be generated by the internal chips of the system. Instead, the U64 will utilize the gobs of compressed data on its cartridges (and eventually the bulky drive disks) to SIMULATE those effects through rapid data de-compression techniques. Every single polygon in every single frame of every single scene for every single character will be pre-generated, pre-rendered, and pre-stored. The processors in the system will de-compress that stored data and ASSEMBLE it on the fly, with an appropriate buffer of memory acting as a cache between the storage medium and those processors. If this is done FAST enough, with the properly rendered polygons placed in their respective places on the fly, almost NO ONE will be able to tell the difference. Except you, me and anyone who pays close attention.

Clatu Verata Nicto,

Red Ronin, The Cybernetic Samurai

Date: Thu, 02 Nov 1995 01:05:55 GMT
From:Dustin (No e-mail address)

Feedback: U64 Carts are 800 MegaBits, not bytes

The Ultra 64 carts are Megabits, not bytes. There are 8 bits in a byte. So a 800 Megabit cart is actually only 100 Megabytes.


Date: Sun, 05 Nov 1995 10:49:02 GMT
From: Fnord (

A Shorter but no less Enlightening Posting from Fnord

Hey, Dustin, why do you think I referred to the size of a CD-ROM in megabits (660 megabytes in a CD=5280 megabits), genius boy? You'd think anyone who knew the obscure and unknown fact that 8 bits is a byte would know that a CD is 660 mbytes, not "around 5000" mbytes. What, you think each U64 cart will be bigger than my hard drive? Well why not-- it sure is faster than my computer.

P.S. I always did wonder exactly how many bits were in a byte. Did anyone else out here know that????????

Date: Sun, 05 Nov 1995 19:58:46 GMT
From: Shadow (MTLyon@BSUvc.BSU.EDU

Feedback: Actually...

Actually, yes I did.

- Shadow

Date: Sun, 05 Nov 1995 23:45:50 GMT
From: Red Ronin (

Idea: I sure did...


Yes, I did know EXACTLY how many bits are in a byte and I've known since I was about 14 (a loooonnng time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....)! I even posted about this li'l problem a while ago, just check my 'EASY!' or 'One more thing...' response somewhere (above?) on this page.

How's this, from now on let's just say that MEGABYTES are Mbytes or 'Megs' and that MEGABITS are Mbits or 'megs'.

Clatu Verata Nicto,

Red Ronin, The Cybernetic Samurai

Re: U64 update (Fnord)
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 1995 18:38:21 GMT
From: Red Ronin (

Disagree: I read CAP SCOTT'S U64 FAQ...


Okay, I read Cap Scott's U64 FAQ and I'm still not convinced that all of it isn't a big heap of crap. As I mentioned above a standard means of referring to different pieces of hardware is needed, so that there can be a consistent basis for comparison.

All right, so, a LOT of Cap Scott's explanations are well done :) (remember, I'm extremely biased against Nintendo for NoGoodReason) but still, quite a bit of it leaves me shaking my head. Yeah, Cap didn't say that there would be REALTIME RAYTRACING, but he DID use terms that when reverse-engineered MEAN REALTIME RENDERING which is by definition, RAYTRACING! Fine, Cap's definition of rendering is basically 'put a picture on a surface' but that IS NOT what I am talking about. If any time someone refers to placing a picture on the screen as being rendering, heck, I guess ALL video game machines (all the way back to PONG) have in the simplest of terms done realtime rendering.

THE 500 MHz BUS. It was EXTREMELY INACCURATE for Cap Scott to refer to the 500 MHz BANDWIDTH as being a 500 MHz TRANSFER RATE. A DATA TRANSFER RATE is established by measuring the number of bits or bytes transferred over TIME - NOT the clock speed of the INTERFACE between the sender and the receiver. SURELY SOMEONE OUT THERE CAN TELL YOU, ME AND CAP SCOTT HOW MANY BITS PER SECOND OR BYTES PER SECOND CAN BE TRANSFERRED THROUGH THAT BUS!!! Until someone does, you CANNOT make a blanket statement that it will AUTOMATICALLY BE FASTER than the transfer rate on other sytems. Also, MILLIONS OF INSTRUCTIONS PER SECOND (MIPS) MUST BE DEFINED IN A PRECISE NUMBER OF BITS AND BYTES TRANSFERRED before ANY accurate comparison can be made between systems because instructions per second can be defined in a myriad of ways.

Cap Scott GUESSED that a particular RISC chip would be the one in the U64, but has NOT confirmed that yet. After having a conversation with a friend of mine who has been Data Administrator/Computer Consultant for MANY years, I can tell you that the ONLY 64-bit RISC chips ANYWHERE that can do ALL of the things the U64's MPU is supposed to be capable of cost in excess of $6000 EACH! The ONLY 64-bit RISC chips available that can do the individual tasks in graphics processing cost in excess of $2000 EACH! Those chips are manufactured by Intel and Digital Equipment Corporation and are NOT available in wide distribution. So Cap's statement that 'since Nintendo expects to sell millions of systems worldwide' they can easily produce the chips for $35 each is ridiculous, ludicrous and laughable. Intel makes MORE CHIPS THAN ANYONE IN THE WORLD but still A 100 MHz 486 DX-4 chip costs around $400! How in the hell is NINTENDO going to produce a more powerful chip in (I hope you can admit this) far fewer quantities and sell it for less than 10% of the price? And what about memory chips? There AREN'T ANY 64-BIT MEMORY CHIPS IN WIDE DISTRIBUTION!

Like I said in another article, IF THIS IS POSSIBLE I WILL BUY IT IN A HOT SECOND. I will then get a developer's license from Nintendo if I have to beg, borrow and steal to afford it. I will get a U64 tattoo and tell the world that Nintendo is KING! I will smoke crack until dawn and type messages to this forum with my tongue. NOT likely.

Clatu Verata Nicto,

Red Ronin, The Cybernetic Samurai

Re: Disagree: I read CAP SCOTT'S U64 FAQ... (Red Ronin)
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 1995 20:24:26 GMT
From: Nameless (

Red Ronin

Red Ronin, you are the armegeddon all of us have been waiting for. i applaude you. thank you for keeping us starry-eyed video game buyers weel informed.

Saturday, December 09, 1995 2:49 PM

The Last Word...

And so the debate rages on... There is indeed even more information on Sega's Saturn bulletin board, I'm sure you will enjoy those replies that do not appear here (this one does not appear there).

Though there are other posts from me at Sega's Site that do not appear here, I have stopped contributing to the discussion because I realized that Fnord had the FIRST word and would not rest until he had the LAST. He began to ramble off even more specs that I continued to thwart, then tried to sneak in specs I had already repudiated, eventually just talking in circles. Fnord did not concede the U64 would not be able to do ALL the things shown in those specs even once and I just got tired of arguing about it.

As I see it, Nintendo's Ultra64 was to have graphics and animation capabilities comparable to demos shown on Silicon Graphics Workstations. Several times Nintendo representatives have said in public and through interviews that the final product would ship for less than $250, have display capabilities equal to or not much less than those demos, and offer the first true 64-bit gaming experience at a level of excellence that would put it in a class all its own. Judging by the specs shown for this wonder-machine I felt led to believe it would be capable of producing real-time graphic adventures on par with the computer generated graphics in ABC's REBOOT television series. I doubted this from the beginning and I still do.

The U64 has been launched (but not released, wait until April/May '96) and it will not be released in Japan for Christmas '95 as promised. It was shown at Shoshin-kai and I believe at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Only three games were shown and none of those were complete. The one I have seen in action is a new Mario game that is in full 3D. That game is very colorful and full of texture-mapped shaded polygons. But from what I saw, those graphics were much closer to being slightly better than those in Battle Arena Toshinden on the Sony PlayStation than they were to being slightly less than those on an SGI Workstation - and not even close to those shown on REBOOT.

As I've said all along, there's no doubt that with the benefit of two-year's worth of technology available (and knowing the weaknesses of your opponents beforehand), the U64 will have superior capabilities to the Saturn and PlayStation in some respects, but that improvement is only a slight one, not a complete generational leap. That's the way I see it. Thanks for reading.

Toyoniya Hiyaku,

Red Ronin, The Cybernetic Samurai

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