Thursday 16 May 2019

Saturn Quake Takes: Killing Them Slowly

I don’t need to tell you that Quake rocks. Father K already covered that a while back, offering praise for it and the other iconic first person shooters Lobotomy Software famously ported to Sega’s mid-90s underdog console.

It’s also no secret that Quake’s presence on the Saturn was practically a miracle in the first place. Digital Foundry’s John Linneman has even gone as far as to dub it the “Impossible Port.” The Saturn was notoriously a pain in the ass to develop for – particularly for devs hoping to utilize the third dimension – and yet it still runs Quake somehow. Granted, plenty of concessions were needed to make that happen. Compared to the PC original, the Saturn Quake sports choppier frame rates, reduced responsiveness, and less precise movement and aiming sans mouse and keyboard. But despite its limitations, it remains infinitely more impressive than the PlayStation port of Quake…which doesn’t exist.

Tech stuff aside, I’m more interested in delving into some interesting ways Saturn Quake managed to differentiate its player experience from the classic PC original. As a likely result of the technological and design compromises Lobotomy made to get Quake to function on Saturn hardware, I quickly noticed the Saturn version forces me to approach its gameplay in some fundamentally new and unexpected ways.

Monday 6 May 2019

Being A Retro Gamer, Stops Me From Playing The Saturn!

We all love a bargain...
I remember when I first started collecting for the Saturn as a "Retro Gamer" (as opposed to a current gen buyer in the 1990s). The year was 2006, and I was avidly buying up Dreamcast hardware and software. I had inherited a couple of Dreamcasts from people who wanted to get rid of "clutter". They had given them to my kids to be honest, but my kids could not have been more disinterested. They had a PS2 and were dreaming of a 360. I on the other hand was very interested - I had missed out on the Dreamcast completely, because my late 90s and early 2000s had been a blur of parenthood, work and excessive raving. The Dreamcast was a revelation to me... I was enthralled by it and spent my post-raving days buying up as much Dreamcast guff as I could. Most of my transactions and purchases took place at a Gamestation within Blockbuster in Fallowfield, Manchester, where vast quantities of games were being offloaded by punters, usually to pay for new stuff - it was an exciting time - the PS3 and 360 had just come out and the Wii was imminent. The Dreamcast was dead in the water... games that had fetched £40 + were now being sold at Blockbuster for £2.50. The console itself was £17 if you wanted one, and peripherals such as light-guns, keyboards, microphones etc could be picked up for under a fiver. The term retro-gamer had just been coined for people who were generally into systems such as the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Amiga, Commodore 64 etc. If retro-gamers were into any sort of consoles, it was systems like the Atari 2600, the NES or Master System.

So where did the Saturn fit into this world? Well, the value of Saturn games and hardware was even less than that of the Dreamcast. It was available for pennies... literally. The Saturn was simply seen as a failure, an "also ran" system that had been vastly inferior to the PlayStation, and that it had failed both critically and commercially. Many people simply didn't know the system had existed. One of the most exciting things about collecting for Dreamcast or Saturn was the ability to score a bargain. We all love a bargain, right? We tell friends about them, we post our shopping triumphs on Facebook and remember them, sometimes for years after we have used them up, or thrown them away. I distinctly remember the time in 2006 that I found a copy of Sega Rally for 20p!

20p? In 2006, that was a paltry amount of cash - one could perhaps buy a cheap packet of crisps or a small chocolate bar with it. But here was one of my favourite games in pristine condition for 20p! Again, back at the time of production, this would have gone for £30. I remember the fact that I had got a game I rated and valued SO MUCH had blown my mind. For a week or so, I played my Sega Saturn more than my Dreamcast. I revelled in the fact that my gaming pleasure had cost me so little... indeed, it seemed for every hour of Sega Rally I clocked up, the pleasure I took from my purchase seemed to grow. It was a feeling I had forgotten about, until now...