Hardware design and representation of graphics in videogames: A case study: the Sega Saturn

Marco Liboà


The paper focuses on how the design of the hardware supports and constrains the representation of graphics in videogames. The Sega Saturn was chosen as a platform of study due to the complexity of its internal circuitry and the period during which it was commercialised, characterised by a shift in the representation of game graphics from 2D to 3D. The peculiar characteristics of Saturn’s two video display processors and the way they shape the graphics of games developed for it are presented in a few selected examples. In particular, it illustrates how a 3D space can be simulated by means of 2D background layers, and how hardware limitations and different video-signals can affect the final rendering of game graphics. It concludes that different graphical techniques, present in a certain episode of a game series, could be absent in a direct sequel and then reappear all together in a later episode, leading to a non-linear technological innovation trajectory. Furthermore, it is ascertained that the Saturn hardware architecture influenced the efforts of developers in subtle and unexpected ways.


Sega Saturn; Platform Studies; Hardware

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.26503/todigra.v5i1.109
Published by the Digital Games Research Association.