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Classic Games (Games) Entertainment Games

Classic Game Console Design Mistakes 185

Harry writes "Some bad decisions in game console design get made over and over. (How many early systems had nightmarish controllers?) Others are uniquely inexplicable. (Like the Game Boy Advance's lack of a headphone jack.) Some stem from companies being too clever for their own good. (Like the way the RCA Studio II and Atari 5200 drew their power through their RF switches.) Benj Edwards has rounded up a few classic examples, and has attempted to figure out what was going on in the designers' heads — and what we can learn from their mistakes."
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Classic Game Console Design Mistakes

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  • comfort zones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Goffee71 ( 628501 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @03:01AM (#29020325) Homepage
    Nice that this article fails to consider that all of these technologies come from companies developing within their comfort zones, unaware another company was pushing the boundaries or under immense budgetary pressures to save every last cent.

    In the author's world of retrospect, everything should be fantastic.
  • N64 cartridges (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mozk ( 844858 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @03:11AM (#29020377)

    Loading times for games on CD were very long in the mid-1990s, sometimes trying the patience of the player. [...] In contrast, the access time for ROM chips in cartridges was nearly instantaneous, with nary a loading screen to be found. It made for a better user experience up-front, but ultimately that feature alone wasn't worth the price of admission.

    Unfortunate, as long load times is one of the things that really irked me with the PlayStation.

    They state that game publishes were reluctant to invest in cartridges, as CDs were less risky and had higher profit margins, but if the focus had been on making good games that people want to play rather than trying to weigh risks and balance game quality with profitability, they really shouldn't have had to worry about that.

    Nevertheless, there were a few good N64 games and couple of great ones. Cartridges weren't a complete mistake.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @03:39AM (#29020525) Journal

    The guy also seems to be remembering history through rose colored glasses. And I quote: "It took a long time before one innovator clearly came along (in this case, Nintendo with its NES pads) and provided a truly easy-to-use, accurate, sensitive, and comfortable solution."

    He obviously doesn't remember the NES pads, or is confusing them with the SNES pads, because those little square brick NES pads were the definition of cramped hands. The first truly long term comfortable controller I ever held in my hands were the Sega Genesis original 3 button. The curved shape made it easy to tear through some Altered Beast or Super Thunder Blade. Anybody who gamed for hours with the original NES pads knows the lovely hand and finger cramps that would come after hour 2.

  • by _133MHz ( 1556101 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @05:50AM (#29021023)
    Remember having to put your PS1 on its side (or completely upside-down) or else it wouldn't read your games? The optical pickup mechanism of the early models of the PlayStation used a plastic piece as a guide for the sliding laser assembly, repeated motion degraded the plastic piece over time causing optical drift - turning the PS1 on its side forced the laser back to its correct position (yay gravity!).

    Sony replaced that piece with a shiny metal guide in their later models, much like every CD-ROM drive has used for the past two decades or so.
  • Re:N64 cartridges (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Z80a ( 971949 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @06:06AM (#29021103)
    actually thats not a frame buffer, but a texture cache, but you're correct on that being the cause of the crappy blurry textures.

    Playstation had a 2k texture cache, but if i'm not mistaken, its hardware automatically did cut the bigger textures in smaller parts to fill the cache with the pixels that only would be used on that triangle, unlike N64 that needed to pull that off manually or not at all, as the cases you pointed.
  • by walshy007 ( 906710 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @06:09AM (#29021121)

    because those little square brick NES pads were the definition of cramped hands.

    I started playing nes when I was 4, I stopped around age 13, those controllers were very comfortable for me. Perhaps now that I'm not a child they wouldn't be, but to children they were fine

  • by St.Creed ( 853824 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @07:00AM (#29021403)

    In my experience, really bad design decisions aren't always motivated by idiots trying to push their hobby horse, but often because better solutions have been patented to death.

    Case in point: electronic television guides. Every format under the sun is patented. Philips refused to submit to extortion for years and implemented one miserable scheme after another, until they finally got an agreement with a patent holder. Even then, the patent holder refused to let Philips implement the whole thing themselves but instead insisted it had to be their own, horribly buggy, implementation. You can still hear the tv-guys at Philips gnashing their teeth.

    I fear it's sort of similar with these controllers: the good ideas were being patented, so the designers had to avoid them and come up with something 'original'. That doesn't always work out for the best, as demonstrated in the article :)

  • Standby/Hibernate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @08:42AM (#29021973)
    I want the nextgen consoles to have a standby or hibernate mode like a Windows box. I would no longer have to issue fatwas against game designers who put save points three hours apart.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:23AM (#29023233)

    DS/DSi, close lid -> Standby. I was playing ffta2 for a couple hours, then I closed the lid. Accidentally left it in standby for over a week, I was impressed when I could still play for several hours after remembering it was in standby.

  • Re:N64 cartridges (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) * on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @10:55AM (#29023663) Journal

    I agree. The N64 suffered in terms of digital music and cutscenes, but the cartridges were plenty big enough to hold great games. You don't need digital music or cutscenes to make a great game.

  • Except... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hamster Lover ( 558288 ) * on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @05:08PM (#29029933) Journal

    Except on a Mac.

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