Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Neo Geo Programming Guide (1991) [pdf] (hardmvs.com)
76 points by felhr on Apr 2, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments

Neo Geo is an interesting system. The graphics system in particular is very elegant for old-school hardware. Like Atari 2600 and Amiga, sprites can be extremely tall at essentially no extra cost; it's the width that really eats up the budget (which on Neo, IIRC, are timeslices on a state machine that renders the sprites into a linebuffer, rather than physical FIFOs). Unlike Atari 2600 and Amiga, the hardware has the concept of "chaining" sprites so that a huge meta-sprite's position can be controlled by a single attribute block. There's no background hardware; the way you build backgrounds is by creating huge sprites. The hardware also has a simple mechanism for automatic animation so that various kinds of environmental animation can be done without the CPU having to update all of the pattern numbers.

There is a textmode-like foreground layer (the "fix" layer, probably called that because it can't scroll) for UI elements like score, credits, life meters, etc..

Trivia: Neo Geo was not primarily designed by SNK, but rather by Alpha Denshi (ADK), presumably acting as a contractor. It bears some similarities to earlier boards for ADK and SNK games (see the MAME drivers "alpha68k" and "snk68").

I laughed a little when I read about the "free" animations, because I immediately thought of the backgrounds in some stages of Blazing Star which were effectively short looping videos. An effect also used fairly extensively by NG:Dev.Team.

This is great to see, since this year's Revision party saw the release of two NeoGeo demos at the same time, with there being almost none before that:

http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=67110 http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=67100

That is a great material and has some wisdom too like:

"As a general rule, the most important thing to remember is to give a good play value without resorting to shock tactics. Comedy in good taste is a very good method to add gaming value to any game. If the whole family can laugh together at a game with a sense of humor, it provided a more enjoyable experience without being offensive. " page. 106 (guidelines).

I was too poor for having Neo Geo at home but I played it on arcades.

Same here. Never could afford one.

I recall playing a side-scrolling arcade RPG put out by Neo-Geo sometime in the late '80s/early '90s. From what I remember there was leveling and different classes of characters ( fighter, mage, etc ). It was something like Golden Axe, but a lot more detailed. Tried to find it later but never had any luck.

Possibly Crossed Swords: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H485or8VOC8

Or Sengoku: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZqBgAQak64

Or also possibly Dungeons and Dragons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8alVk4Zi5A0

D&D was by Capcom on the CPS2, a competitor to the Neo Geo.

Another Capcom game that fits the general description is The King of Dragons (1991, CPS1 hardware).

Are you sure it was by SNK (Neo-Geo) and not Capcom? Capcom had a bunch of games out at that time that fit your description (The King of Dragons and a couple of licensed D&D games come to mind).

I can remember wanting one of these so badly when I was a kid, but check out the specs!

12Mhz CPU 64K RAM 64K VRAM

Now this thing has 83x the clock rate and ~8,000x the memory for $9: http://getchip.com/pages/chip

I can remember reading articles about how fast and cheap computers would get, but man.

While 12MHz sounds weak, the heavy lifting was done by dedicated graphics hardware. Once you relieve the CPU from the burden of blitting, you're left with more than enough cycles for almost any sort of game. Even the GBA only had a 16MHz ARM! From Wikipedia:

"The SNK custom video chipset allows the system to draw sprites in vertical strips which are 16 pixels wide, and can be 16 to 512 pixels tall; it can draw up to 96 sprites per scanline for a total of 380 sprites on the screen at a time."

Memory was the big issue of the Neo Geo, if I remember correctly. The system itself was expensive enough, but what really broke the bank was the price of each individual game. And that was mainly because they used cartridges with many times the amount of ROM compared to what Nintendo or Sega used. That meant that a single game cost more than their competitor's console.

And by the time the Neo Geo CD came out where this was suddenly not an issue anymore, it was too late alredy...

The Neo Geo CD had 7 megs of RAM, and the Neo Geo cart games just kept on getting bigger. The last CD games released would often load midway through levels or several times per fight for fighting games. Then from there many Neo Geo games never got a CD release because it just wasn't feasible.

As for the price of Neo Geo games, just for some fun here is one that sold last week for over $5000: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Blazing-Star-Neo-Geo-AES-JP-import-1...

Many Neo Geo games are now in four figure territory.

Yes. I had a Neo Geo, but my parents would only buy the games used. The less-popular games got pretty cheap that way, so I mostly played a bunch of "odd" games rather than the huge hits like King of Fighters and so on. To give an idea of how big the games are, a Neo Geo cartridge is roughly the size of a VHS cassette and contains two circuit boards.

The game size was still kind of an issue on Neo Geo CD since it was only a single-speed drive. The system was kind of infamous for long load times. Think of the loading time of an early PS1 game, and then consider that Neo Geo CD had something like 3x the RAM to fill, a drive half as fast, and no good way to "stream" or otherwise hide disc loading. A few later games had to stop in the middle of a level to load.

A few years ago someone on the Mame forums released the full 68k source to Art of Fighting. Apparently the Neo Geo source code was hidden in a PC-Engine conversion of the game. Since then members of the community have re-assembled the game & it's proven to work.

I must admit, I am surprised at how good the English is in this document so far. Granted, I've only skimmed it, but I half expected to find a bit of Engrish left and right.

Color me pleasantly surprised!

This was most likely translated by SNK USA. Although the Neo Geo never gained any US developers.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact