Monday, July 28, 2014

Why Every Gamer Needs a Dreamcast

The Sega Dreamcast set first-day sales records when it debuted on 9/9/99. It boasted the first 128-bit processor in a game system, built-in online connectivity, an innovative memory card that doubled as a miniature hand-held gaming device, and a proprietary disc that could hold one full gigabyte of information. It ran a version of Windows CE for easy programming, or programmers could access the CPU and GPU directly. Its GPU was a special version of the PowerVR processor used in PCs of the time. Its processors could render up to 7 million polygons per second, making it almost 20 times as powerful, polygon-wise, as the Playstation 1.

When the next wave of 128-bit systems hit, they were billed as much more powerful than the Dreamcast. Let's check the numbers:

Nintendo 64 - @100,000 pps (polygons per second), but with major additional graphic effects
Sega Saturn - @200,000 pps, slightly fewer depending on the effects used
Sony Playstation - @360,000 pps depending on the effects being used

Sega Dreamcast - @7million pps
Nintendo Gamecube - @16 million pps
Sony Playstation 2 - @66 million pps
Xbox - @100 million pps

Nintendo Wii - @65 million pps
Sony Playstation 3 - @333 million pps (as assessed by outside testers)
Xbox 360 - @500 million pps

By the way, none of these maximum polygon counts reflects what's actually going to happen in a game situation. In a game, you might see about half of the benchmarked pps being used, largely to avoid overtaxing the system and messing up gameplay. Notice a few things, however.

1. Out of the three 32/64-bit era systems, the N64 had the most amazing graphics, but could render the fewest polygons per second.
2. The Dreamcast and Gamecube numbers were not far apart.
3. Gamecube graphics were indistinguishable from most PS2 and Xbox graphics.
4. Games that really pushed what the Dreamcast could do would look right at home on the other 128-bit systems.

Some examples:

Dead or Alive 2

Ferrari F355 Challenge
Sega GT


Skies of Arcadia
Soul Calibur
However, let's not spend too much time rehashing ancient history. (I may have done that already.) Modern systems (Xbox One, PS4) put anything before them to shame, and they haven't even begun to push what the machines can do. It's not all about the polys, or the Teraflops or whatever. It's about the games. The Dreamcast was the first game system to create convincing graphics. I remember my father-in-law watching us play UFC and asking who was winning, and being surprised it was a game and not a Pay Per View match.
There's another, even more important reason to own a Dreamcast -- it emulates other systems very, very well. If you want to back up all of your old Atari 2600, NES, Genesis, and NeoGeo Games, the Dreamcast can and will play them, all this without having to mod the system.
That's right, no modding!
Yes, I know your PC can do all of that as well, maybe even your cell phone. But there's nothing quite like laying back on the couch with an actual console controller in your hand, playing games on an actual TV. The Dreamcast also makes a great base for building an arcade unit. (I'll show mine off in a later post.)
Last but not least, the Dreamcast was made to run in VGA mode with a special attachment, and that signal can be upconverted to 1080p with the right equipment. This means it will look right at home on your HDTV.
Additionally, because of the ease of use of the Windows CE operating system, people are still making games for Dreamcast. My favorite homebrew site is There you will find all the tools you need to back up your games from older systems onto discs that play on Dreamcast, plus a host of new, homebrew titles, some surprisingly awesome.
If, like me, you are a gaming nerd, you NEED a Sega Dreamcast. Luckily for you, they are cheap, plentiful, and easy to find. (Click here to find one.) Take my advice, friend, and enjoy yourself.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility: Which Games and Why It Matters


I must confess to never selling off my old systems when they become "outdated." Therefore, the issue of backwards compatibility isn't a big deal to me. When I decide it's time to upgrade to a newer system, that particular feature won't be an issue.


If you bought an Xbox 360 and were not the owner of an original Xbox (the nomenclature of the Xbox One bugs me), you missed out on a whole bunch of awesome games, games that tend to look even better when played on the Xbox 360. However, not all original Xbox games are compatible, so I've decided to post a list of games that I know for sure (I've tested them all) are indeed compatible. One caveat: some games might require an update via Xbox Live to be compatible, but most of these were tested while unconnected to Xbox Live.

Atari Anthology -- B
Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 1 and 2 -- A
The Bard's Tale -- A
Batman Begins -- A-
Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu -- B
Blinx: The Time Sweeper -- B
Blowout -- B
Breakdown -- A-
Brute Force -- C
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe -- C+
Circus Maximus: Chariot Wars -- B-
Conker: Live and Reloaded -- A- (a bit crude and offensive at times)
Counter Strike -- C
Crimson Skies -- A
The DaVinci Code -- C-
Dead or Alive Ultimate Discs 1 and 2 -- A
Dead or Alive 3 -- A+
Destroy All Humans! -- B+
Doom 3 -- A+
Dreamfall -- A-
Dungeons and Dragons Heroes -- A-
Elder Scrolls: Morrowind  -- A+
Fable: The Lost Chapters -- A+
Farcry: Instincts -- B
Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone -- A-
Fuzion Frenzy -- B
Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows -- A-
Goblin Commander -- B+
Grabbed by the Ghoulies -- A-
Guilty Gear X2 -- A
Half Life 2 -- A
Halo -- A+ (duh)
Halo 2 -- A+ (ditto)
The House of the Dead 3 -- A+ (with gun)/B (using controller)
Hunter: The Reckoning -- A-
The Incredibles -- A-
Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb -- A
Intellivision Lives -- D
Jade Empire -- A+

Justice League Heroes -- A+
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King -- B
Lord of the Rings: The Third Age -- A+
Magic: Battlegrounds -- C (if you're a Magic fan, A-)
Marvel Nemesis  -- A-
Max Payne -- C+
Max Payne 2 -- B
MechAssault 2 -- A+
Mega Man Anniversary Collection -- A+
Metal Arms -- A
Mojo! -- C+
Mortal Kombat: Deception -- A- (bonus points for the mini-game)
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon -- A+ (major bonus for the mini-game)
Namco Museum -- C
NFL 2K5 -- A- (extremely playable)
Ninja Gaiden Black -- A+
Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee -- A
Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast  -- B+
Panzer Dragoon Orta -- A+
Phantom Dust -- A (bonus points for being unique)
Project Gotham Racing 2 -- B+
Psychonauts -- A+
Quantum Redshift -- A
Return to Castle Wolfenstein -- B+
Scrapland -- B
Sega GT 2002/Jet Set Radio Future -- B/A+ (both games on same disc)
Sega Soccer Slam -- A
Serious Sam -- A- (mindless fun)
Shenmue 2 -- A+ (insanely interactive game world, awesome story)
Showdown: Legends of Wrestling -- A
Simpsons Hit & Run -- A (Simpsons meet GTA)
Simpsons Road Rage -- B- (Crazy Taxi clone)
Sonic Heroes -- A+
Sonic Mega Collection Plus -- B
Soul Calibur 2 -- A+ (bonus points for Spawn)
Splinter Cell -- A
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow -- A+
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory -- A+
Star Wars Battlefront -- A
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic -- A+
Street Fighter Anniversary Collection -- A+ (includes SF3)
Super Bubble Pop -- B+
Syberia 2 -- B (A if you've played Syberia 1)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- A
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X -- A+ (best in the series from a purist's standpoint)
Tork: Prehistoric Punk -- A-
Ultimate Spider-Man  -- A
Unreal Championship 2  -- A+
Wrath Unleashed  -- A (medieval combat chess)

My original plan was to include a list of games I tested that were not backwards compatible, but since I hadn't tested them all while connected to Xbox live I couldn't be sure they didn't have an update that made them work. Wikipedia has a very detailed list, but you might find this one more useful as it only contains games I find to be worth playing and each is rated. Still, there are certainly a few left out, so double check before buying.

The point is that with the added original Xbox games, the Xbox 360 is loaded with awesome content. It wouldn't be very hard for an aspiring developer to create a compatibility app for the Xbox One that lets it play both original Xbox and Xbox 360 games; the CPU is certainly powerful enough to handle the emulation. Let's hope someone goes to the trouble. I'd certainly pay $5 - $10 for the download. The same goes for the PS4. Imagine an app that lets you play games from PS1 - PS3. Again, at $5 - $10 a download, you'd make a killing!

Well, if you think you're out of good 360 games to play, take a look at this list, the ratings, and the genre. You're bound to find a hidden gem or ten worth your time. Enjoy!


Friday, July 4, 2014

What's up with the title?

When I decided to make a blog about my not-so-serious interests (my other blog, The Use of Reason, is all about politics and social issues), I had to go through several names before finding one that was both fitting and, well, available. Even this title is in use in another configuration: mine has a DASH between the words "the" and "nerdhole," whereas someone else is already using the whole thing run together.

The Nerdhole is what I call my basement, or man cave. The walls are covered in comic book paraphenalia and collectible super hero toys. There are two homemade arcade units. I have a projector screen for my newer game systems and an old-fashined entertainment setup for the older ones. There is a home gym (not as nerdy, but fun) on the other side, and one foosball table and one air hockey table tucked away in another area. It's technically underground, thus a Nerdhole.

I intend to post fun things here, like video game reviews, instructions about how to build your own arcade units, and generally nerd out on whatever pops into my head. There will be lots of handy links to help out with things. The comments section will serve as a forum for anyone interested enough to post something. All-in-all, I just wanted a forum in which to share my fun.

Well, I hope you enjoy the blog. I know I will.