History Of Optical Drive (inside gaming)

Optical drives have existed in gaming consoles for tens of years. The technology existed way before it was used in mainstream game devices. Back in the 90s there were several consoles that were equipped with optical disc drive. One of the earliest was the expansion to Segas Mega Drive called Mega-CD.

As Compact Disc technology gained ground there was a strong change coming in the form of 3D technology. Sega maybe was one the firsts to make use of new technology but it made a slight mistake. It didn’t have a gaming console capable to produce 3D models and/or graphics. Later Sony made its entry to gaming business with PlayStation and claimed its spot as the developer of the most popular gaming system.

During this period there were several devices released from Philips, Atari and Panasonic just to name a few. The competition was tough. We can compare the amount of data that game cartridges had to what was possible through CD technology. An average CD-R disc holds 700 MB. Nintendo 64s cartridges hold only about 35 MB. This meant that there was 20 times more space for any game to be developed.

First CD-ROM made its way and later came DVDs in the form of Sonys PlayStation 2. This was back in the beginning of 2000s. DVDs offer about 4,7 GB of space. This format was followed by Blurays that hold data from 25 GB up to 100 GB depending on which technology it uses or to say more precisely how many layers the disc has. Blurays are used in the latest generation of gaming consoles but this is about to change as PS5 and Xbox Series X are making their way to the markets later this year.

Todays games can take up so much space that you have to download a large update during the installation of the game. As speeds of internet connections keep developing it is today possible to produce gaming consoles and computers that don’t have, or don’t need to have, any optical drives. This gives the consumer an ability to just pay the game and install it directly to the hard drive. Of course this makes it easier to manage game collections but maybe something is lost as there is no physical material to collect or showcase. All in all digital gaming makes manufacturing gaming devices cheaper and it also shows this way to the consumer. PS5 will be released as all-digital version and a version that has an optical drive just to mention an example.

Service Games – The Rise and Fall Of SEGA (Book review)

Sam Pettus wrote a book about “the rise and fall” of Sega. This book was published in 2013. Sega has been releasing some games but the latest console was DreamCast. And it was released in 1998. So the book is some years old but if you think of this subject, how Sega conquered and commanded the markets first with Mega Drive and later with other consoles, you find out that this content is not outdated. It might be currently relevant as being part of console gaming history. And in my opinion – this is something that every gamer should know about. So what was and is Sega and what kind of an impact it made on gaming and how it can be seen even today?

This book begins the journey to Segas history from the beginning to the fall. The first console released was SG-1000. I have never seen this console. The breakthrough for Sega came as Master System, a well-known gaming system, was released. This was the beginning of console war between mainly Sega and Nintendo. This happened in 80s as there first appeared to be two greatly popular gaming consoles on the same market. Atari 2600 was already considered older console and it was replaced with these newer consoles. Atari had its consoles but they couldn’t compete with Sega and Nintendo.

Sega was active and brought many machines to use in arcades. As Mega Drive was released at the end of 80s Sega promised to bring, finally, arcade quality gaming to mainstream consumers homes. The war raged on and the battle continued. Nintendo brought SNES to markets a few years later. These systems all failed to compete with PlayStation that conquered home gaming console markets from the middle of nineties to the end of the decade. But that’s enough of 3D gaming and PlayStation. Let’s get back to what happened inside gaming world in late 80s and 90s.

So Sega had Mega Drive, that was called also Sega Genesis in some parts of the world, and Nintendo had to compete with its NES that was not as powerful as Mega Drive. NES challenged Sega by making some quality games as Super Mario was the main character to lead Nintendos effort to beat Sega. Sega later came up with Sonic that was the main character and represented Sega in this battle. Nintendo tried to make games that were more propriate for children. Their main focus was to bring high quality games and make them be as non-violent as can be. And in some way they succeeded in this. Sega released games also that had violence in them.

Sega had its success with Mega Drive. They had a bad strategy with pricey products that consumers weren’t so interested in. So there was SNES released by Nintendo. Sega released 32X and Sega CD that both failed to gain popularity. After that Sega came up with Saturn that had a tough job to compete with PlayStation. And after that Sega gave its very strong effort to bring to the markets potentially the best console ever made. And some definite fans of Sega are saying that they accomplished just that.

DreamCast did sell but it didn’t sell enough as Nintendo had released N64 and PlayStation 2 was on it’s way. DreamCast ended up selling “only” 9 million consoles worldwide. For a comparison I can tell that PS2 sold more than 100 million consoles. So PS2 sold more than ten times more. So it clearly was a failure for Sega. They ended manufacturing the console as it had only been in the market for just a few years. At the same time PS2 sold steadily and continued in producing. There are many reasons why Sega failed. And many of them were not that they made mistakes but in fact the case was that they had to compete with some very good console manufacturers like Sony and also Microsoft that released also their console at the beginning of the century.

This book is very good. I had fun reading it. It tells you the whole story of Sega as a company and opens up some ideas of how they succeeded and finally failed badly and left the gaming console industry. If you are a Sega fan this is an important piece of gaming history. I am myself a big Mega Drive fan beginning from games and music that was made with and for it. This is not, I repeat, a paid or other type of commercial but more like a recommendation for gaming and Sega fans around the world reading this blog. We will be back, soon, with the next article.

My personal history with first PlayStation

It started back in the 90s. I don’t remember the year exactly. I think it was 1997. I was a very young boy then. I had some money on me and somehow I decided to get a PlayStation. I had been thinking about buying a moped with this money but as I thought about it my mind changed. I could play for years with this new console and time for moped riding would be over in some years, maybe three years or maybe until I’ll get a car to ride. I don’t recall clearly how this idea of spending my money to a gaming console went but the decision was finally made. I got a PlayStation.

My parents then allowed me to have a television in my room. It was nice. I remember the time when I first picked up the package that was delivered to the nearest post office. And do I remember? Yes I do. I had some games. Gran Turismo was the best of those games that this so called bundle had in it. The package was a used console and I think it had two games. There was two controllers included. The console, games and controllers and a memory card were delivered to me as used. But the console and all things included were in a good condition.

So back then, if you had a Sega Mega Drive, you were just a loser. That system was ten years, practically a bit of an eternity for a thirteen-year-old kid, old. I had my friend teasing me about it. Yeah, I remember I was a bit sad also. I had to pack my Mega Drive and place it somewhere for preserve. I actually took it later and placed it next to some other retro consoles, but back then I really didn’t have so much space for different kinds of consoles. I had to choose one and that was PSX.

I remember so many games. I played Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 1, 2 and 3, Gran Turismo, Driver, Colin McRae Rally 1 and 2.0, Final Fantasy VII, Fear Effect, Tony Hawks Pro Skater, Silent Hill and many more. There were loads of games available. More than ever. And then older people, I mean older than a thirteen-year-old, started to get curious about gaming. This was time before the release of Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox. I have to mention also Sega DreamCast here, because that’s the best gaming console that Sega ever released. It was sad that it didn’t survive longer.

So I just played and played and also made my way to High School. I had much fun back then but at the same time I started to get more into studying and that somehow pulled me away from games. I started getting into music production that has been my dear hobby for many years. I finally sold my PS1. All of my games, my controllers, memory cards and the console. I got about 120 euros by selling the whole package. That was it. Or so I thought back then. Could it be that this was my gaming hobby?

Well, it wasn’t. I got into gaming again as I was studying. I was still a young adult. Games were all around and new titles were released. So I first got a PS3, PS4 and then it suddenly got me hooked on again. I bought several new consoles. I bought original Xbox and PSOne. I brought Mega Drive back to my cave, where it belongs. I ordered new stand that could hold all my gaming consoles. It had space for eight devices. I really planned it, but I was surprised when I, after lots of years, started playing Colin McRae Rally 2.0 again with the old controller of PS1. It brought back so many memories. It felt like I had met a friend that I had spent so much time with. And my friend hadn’t changed a bit.

So that is it. This was my story. Today I’m glad I can grab my DualShock any time I want, or anytime my wife isn’t watching telly, and start playing some PS1. I really was away when PS2 made history, but when it comes to playing the first PlayStation nothing in my mind can replace this nostalgic feeling that I get when I have this kind of a session. First PlayStation wasn’t as popular as the second one, but in my scale it’s always going to be first. It made history inside my personal history. And I can keep it that way. Always.

What exactly is chiptune music?

What means chiptune? Chip reminds of electronic component while tune brings in mind a simple musical melody. This even now popular genre became known when game developers, back in 80s, needed music and sound effects for their games. First very popular system that had decent music was Commodore 64 which came to markets in 1982. It had a chip called SID (“Sound Interface Device”) that was responsible for producing the sound for this system.

You can find chiptune also on NES (“Nintendo Entertainment System”), that was released in 1983. 16-bit systems that were later released also could produce music that would be categorized as chiptune althought they were of higher quality as systems moved from 8-bit to 16-bit. First very popular console that had sound quality very close to CDs was the first Sony PlayStation. You can argue for hours about which has better sound – vinyl or CD, but we are not going to go there. So chiptune was originally popular in video games from 1980s to, I think, 1995.

Today chiptune is still very popular. You can find artists that have been strongly influenced by this type of music. Usually chiptune is strongly associated with retro games or the games that originally had chiptune as their background music. As retro gaming is popular chiptune is alive even today. Some artists are producing chiptune with modern tools such as software synthesizers that are just basically virtual instruments with some presets and the ability to create various sounds, your own presets, and can run inside any kind of DAW (“Digital Audio Workstation”) you can imagine.

Since I started with this topic I have to write also more about so called tracker music that first made its way to home musicians sometime in 1980s. So tracker is simple application that runs on computer that allows you to make music. Amigas computers were first devices that made this functionality available for music production. Inside tracker you can define your songs tempo, basically just how fast the track is flowing, and add drum sounds and melodies that are created using small digital samples of audio. Trackers are used also today but they are not as powerful as music applications such as FL Studio for example. Some now popular trackers are Renoise, a very good one, Mad Tracker and OpenMPT. Some older ones are Scream Tracker, Fast Tracker and Impulse Tracker. You can find many great trackers and please comment and let us know if you have a suggestion for readers of this blog.

You can listen to some chiptune songs for example here:

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