Has This Indie Dev Completely Maxed Out The Genesis / Mega Drive? 1
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Indie and homebrew developer Shannon Birt has just shown off a tech demo for the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive which shows the original hardware being pushed to utterly insane limits.

The footage – which isn't a game as such, but a demonstration of how far the ageing system can be taken in the right hands and with the correct tools – shows "1013 sprites in 1013 colors" and is truly stunning to watch.

"What's better than 660 sprites in 660 colors?" asks Birt, referencing the previous demo's totals. "1013 sprites in 1013 colors !!!"

This particular demo kicks off with 117 sprites before adding 20 sprites per second every second until it reaches "Max Blast Processing" around the 46-second mark. The main sprite and audio are taken from Lufthoheit, an upcoming shmup for the console; Birt is working alongside @Carsten1349 and @laurent_crouzet on the Thunder Force-style blaster.

Birt lists some salient points regarding the footage, which, we should stress, is running on actual hardware:

  • 18 Hardware sprites multiplexed 56x each (max level) = 1008 sprites + 5 player ships = 1013.
  • 4-5 colors changed by DMA every scanline.
  • Repositioning 4.5 sprites every scanline - this is VDP maximum level for X&Y (more sprites onscreen with color change is not possible unless I find a miracle).
  • Ran out of total palette colors near mid screen, Shadow & Highlight mode enabled to shadow more colors from that point.
  • Shown on Hardware MD 1 VA 6 + PVM.
  • Coding was a REAL headache, it uses ~ 97% of the cpu/dma time and timing is very tight.
  • Took 3 days alone just to get the music to play - PCM was taking up too much cpu (little cpu to spare). XGM2 sound driver helped & lowered cpu cost, thanks @MegadriveDev
  • Sprites are moved independently at 18 different speeds and their distribution was tricky.
  • Background Planes A & B used for spinning Galaxies

The results are stunning and serve as proof that there's still a lot of life left in the console yet. We've also got Yuzo Koshiro's Earthion to look forward to, which is coming this year and is also taking Sega's 16-bit system in exciting new directions.

[source twitter.com]