Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Is this the worst console ever (Part 3) ?

The RCA Studio 2.

A truly awful piece of hardware. You can look at things like the Channel F and say, well that looks really outdated, really old fashioned.  And it does.

But that's with thirty years of development of games since then.

The truly amazing thing about this machine is that it was out of date when it was released, 35 years ago. The Channel F was released at the same time, and even then there was a chasm between the machines.  Colour. Passable resolution. Half decent controllers.

It's really an outgrowing of the early home machines the Cosmac/Netronics ELF and the Cosmac VIP - much of the hardware is the same. It's programmed in a  variant of Chip 8 which is still popular today.

I know far too much about this machine - I ripped the ROM out ten years ago and wrote the first emulator for it. So I know in great detail how bad it is.

This is what an RCA Studio 2 game looks like.  It's monochrome, 64 x 32 pixels.

This is what Studio 2 Space Invaders looks like.

I actually wrote this game in 1802 assembler and it's way better than any other Studio 2 game. This is the RCA Studio 2's Elite or Doom.

And it's still terrible.

But it is still recognisably Space Invaders though, and if you can ignore the rather primitive graphics it's quite playable. The games that come with it are awful.

Besides the obvious fault, it's got one sound effect - a sort of decreasing pitch wail. The controllers are pretty awful as well - two 10 button keypads.

You could make games a little better. Technically you could up the resolution to 64 x 48 which doesn't sound a lot but actually gives you enough pixel space to make a reasonable game. (You are stuck with the 64 pixels across unless you physically rewire the thing)

Having said that, you are limited by the 1802's processor which is dead slow - and because it generates the Video in a manner similar to the ZX80, only operates about a third of the time anyway. The hard bit with Space Invaders was actually physically moving the invaders across the screen (it actually removes all the bullets, scrolls the whole top 3/4 of the display and then redraws the bullets again - it's too slow to just move the invaders).

On Youtube there are several 'retro gamer' review channels that review this machine and they are incredibly insulting about it, not that it deserves better.

But actually, the worst console ever, even though it actually looks a lot better in screenshots, is worse than this.

Next : no more teasing, the machines identity will be released with an explanation of why it's so bad, because on the face of it, it isn't.

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